Impact: Healthy Communities

Impact: Healthy Communities

Access to local and relevant health information helps people thrive.

The Problem

Misinformation, the scarcity of health information and even an overabundance of health information make it difficult for individuals and families to make informed decisions about their lives and well-being. Often, journalists don’t have the skills or resources to decipher complex science and translate it into plain, actionable language. Additional expertise is needed to draw links between health and climate, the environment, women’s rights and humanitarian crises. Only once these issues have been effectively communicated will individuals and communities be empowered to take action and pressure policymakers to better their health.

The Solution

Internews supports journalists with the tools and training to understand scientific advances in health. We offer tactics for communicating health information effectively through data journalism, investigative reporting and engaging media. We have developed a rumor-tracking methodology to help prevent the spread of misinformation. Internews guides journalists to help audiences see how climate change impacts health and how disease outbreaks can have local and global impact. Our work helps underserved and marginalized communities access health information that leads to action.

Health Information in Action: The ECHO Trial

A closely-watched clinical study of the relationship between contraception methods and HIV, known as the ECHO trial, recently concluded. The results of the study have far-reaching implications for women’s health and the family planning decisions they make, so Internews worked in advance of the study’s release to prepare more than 100 journalists in four key HIV-prevalent regions to report in advance of, upon release of, and in follow up to the study. Here’s a look at why that preparation matters:

Infographic - With and Without informed journalism

In the case of ECHO trial coverage, when results were released at the South African Aids conference in June 2019 – showing no substantial difference in HIV risk among the three forms of contraception under scrutiny – Internews partner journalists were able to swiftly put together media reports which reflected the science and made sense of the findings for their audiences. Their news and analysis pieces have been described as “accurate,” balanced,” “compelling,” and “focused on the essential issues on how to move forward” by key health partners.

Internews’ work in this area is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. An analysis by key partner organization AVAC shows media coverage on results, released in mid-June 2019, to have been accurate. The media has also received praise from the WHO for the responsible manner in which ECHO and surrounding women’s health issues have been reported. Journalists in 18 priority countries will keep tracking how ECHO translates into policy, as other insights from the trial demand urgent interventions for HIV prevention and demonstrate that there is an unfinished agenda to meet the range of needs of those at risk for unplanned pregnancy.

In Focus: The Links Between Climate Change and Health

3 children on concrete steps, 2 sitting, 1 standing; clothes hang on a clothesline nearbySome hazards in the environment can directly affect health – air pollution can cause respiratory disease, lead paint in houses can affect a child’s development, and pesticide exposure is attributed to higher rates of birth defects, developmental delays, leukemia, and brain cancer among farm worker children.

Communities rely on journalists for alerts of these hazards, as well as information on the measures people can take to protect themselves or advocate for regulation.

Read more: Reporters Connect the Dire Health Effects of Climate Change and Environmental Degradation

Watch: Reducing Stigma with Empathetic Coverage

Featuring the reporting work of Zipporah Karani, a Kenyan journalist trained and mentored by Internews, this 2012 video shows the impact of thoughtful, fact-based coverage of sensitive issues, and how that kind of reporting on health in a way that breaks down taboos and resonates with affected communities:

In Focus: When Health is a Humanitarian Crisis

head shot of Emmanuel DeglehSince the 2014-2016 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, and continuing today in DRC, Internews has worked with media in affected areas to counter rumors, listen to affected communities, and create feedback loops to humanitarian aid providers. This work provides actionable health information but also aims to and reduce tension between health providers and communities wary of interventions.

Read a story about reporter Emmanuel Degleh, a Liberian reporter who got his start reporting on Ebola, and has gone on to break news and complex investigations related to health and government accountability.

“Health care is about politics,” says Degleh. “It is about policy. It is about funding. And it is about the most compelling story for a journalist of all, life and death. It is urgent.”

During the Ebola crisis, in 2014, Degleh and fellow trainees of Internews formed a journalist organization, Local Voices Liberia, to support one another and provide a platform for ongoing health coverage in the country. In June 2019, in the USAID/Liberia 2019 awards, Local Voices Liberia won the Civil Society Organization of the Year award, a testimony to the sustainability of their work.

In Focus: Maternal Health and Government Accountability

A baby sleeps covered by blanketsHealth information is particularly critical to women. Issues of gender discrimination, equal rights and prosperity are inseparably tied to the ability of women to make choices for their health and the health of their families. Read a story about Internews’ work that put maternal and child health at the forefront of reporting, and helped health systems workers like doctors, administrators, and obstetricians understand how to better reach women with health information.

More information: Health Voices Amplified

A holistic approach to health information – understanding that climate has health impacts, that women’s rights demand equitable health care and that governments must be held accountable for health policy - is at the core of Internews’ work to equip people everywhere with the information they need to live healthy lives.