Tag Archives: Africa

Doctor says media coverage of Ebola ‘fanned the hysteria’ #ahcj15

Stephanie Innes

About Stephanie Innes

Stephanie Innes is a senior reporter covering health at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. She attended Health Journalism 2016 as one of five health system fellows through the Commonwealth Fund. In 2016 she was named journalist of the year by the Arizona Newspaper Association.

Kris Hickman/AHCJDeane Marchbien, U.S. president of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, critiqued media coverage of Ebola.

Kris Hickman/AHCJDeane Marchbien, U.S. president of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, critiqued media coverage of Ebola.

Media coverage of the Ebola epidemic did a disservice to the public and, “a reckoning is due,” a Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders leader told health care journalists gathered in Silicon Valley last month.

“Instead of focusing on the medical literature and the facts related to Ebola, many of your colleagues fanned the hysteria and the frenzy and the fear,” Deane Marchbein, M.D., told journalists gathered for Health Journalism 2015, the Association of Health Care Journalists’ annual conference, in Santa Clara, Calif.

“An opportunity to educate, inform and reassure was, to a great degree, missed.”

Ebola dominated the headlines only when an American became infected, said Marchbein, who is president of the U.S. Board of Directors for MSF/Doctors Without Borders and was the keynote lunchtime speaker. Continue reading

New blog gives first-person account of Ebola treatment in West Africa

Kris Hickman

About Kris Hickman

Kris Hickman (@the_index_case) is a graduate research assistant for AHCJ, pursuing a master’s degree in public health. She has a bachelor's degree in anthropology, with a minor in journalism, from the University of Missouri. She spent two years in Zambia as an HIV/AIDS community education volunteer in the Peace Corps. She aspires to be an epidemiologist and science writer.

Ebola coverage has been ubiquitous, but fairly short on eyewitness perspective. This BMJ blog, “The Ebola Diaries,” gives readers on-the-ground insights from the front lines of Ebola treatment in West Africa.

The blog will follow eight British military doctors and their Ebola Virus Disease Treatment Unit (EVDTU). They arrived in Sierra Leone from Yorkshire two weeks ago, and will focus their treatment efforts on health care providers who might have contracted the virus. Here is a sample from their first post:

We have now been in Sierra Leone for two weeks, and been exposed to the usual frustrations of an emerging humanitarian operation: reduced communication; supply line difficulties; acclimatising to 80% relative humidity; and learning the local dialect, which lies somewhere between Brixton and Peckham. However, these difficulties are ameliorated by a sea view and friendly nurses!

Follow “The Ebola diaries” for weekly observations on treating Ebola in Sierra Leone.

(Hat tip to Dr. Mona Khanna for sharing the blog with us.)

Resources for covering Ebola following Texas patient’s diagnosis

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Image via CDC

Image via CDC

With today’s announcement of the first Ebola case to be diagnosed in the U.S., it’s worth brushing up on the facts about the virus to help your readers, viewers and listeners understand.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is hosting a briefing at 5:30 p.m. ET about the case, diagnosed in a patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. Expected to speak during that briefing:

  • Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H, director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • David Lakey, M.D., commissioner, Texas Department of State Health Services
  • Edward Goodman, M.D., FACP, FIDSA, FSHEA, hospital epidemiologist, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas
  • Zachary Thompson, M.A., director, Dallas County Health and Human Services

And here are some resources to use in your reporting: Continue reading

American, Kenyan students to cover global health projects

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

An initiative at Boston University will attempt to “fill the void in developing-world health reporting” by using students from that university and two in Kenya to form an international newsroom.



Photo by Nathan Laurell via Flickr

The project recently was awarded $100,000 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The students will take a class that will teach them about public health and communication while coming up with story ideas about foreign aid projects in Africa.

According to an article on BU Today, published by Boston University’s office of marketing and communications:

The African students will gather audio and images of the projects in the field, which will be developed and expanded with new material by the American students at BU’s production facilities. The students producing the best projects will spend a month in late summer in Africa to complete their projects, which would be disseminated through social and mainstream media, and potentially through corporate partners.

Anne Donohue, a BU associate professor of journalism, says the goal is to tell the successful stories of where aid goes and the impact it has on those communities.

South African academic: Conflict of interest went unnoticed in obesity stories

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.

In a column for South Africa’s The Media magazine, Harry Dugmore, MTN Chair of Media and Mobile Communication at the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University, tries to figure out why it is so difficult to produce good journalism. Yes, he writes, it has something to do with the need for constant devotion to the facts and numbers and science, but that’s true of many beats.

For health, he writes, there are simply deeper forces at work. They relate to the sky-high stakes that come with health care’s status as a multibillion-dollar, life-and-death industry, but run deeper (emphasis mine):

What might be different in health journalism is that there are additional scientific and technical challenges. And, beyond these, there are also all sorts of biases and beliefs (both of journalist and audiences) that have to be unpacked and often confronted. Our existential duel with our own mortality; our views on what makes us ill and what gets us better, are ingrained in cultural practice, power relations, and ideological positioning.

Nothing is uncontested.

rhodes
Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. Photo by Pierre Nel via Flickr

To illustrate his point, Dugmore examines a recent set of headlines that mushroomed across the country detailing the nation’s obesity. The stories all reported on a well-known phenomenon and had the ring of truth, but neglected to mention that they were based on the results of a 500-person survey conducted by GlaxoSmithKline to coincide with the new availability of the South African equivalent of Alli as an over-the-counter drug.

What’s scary is that no journalist at all looked at the now freely available weight-loss drug, its purported efficacy, its side effects and real dangers, and the international controversy over its shift from prescription to non-prescription status. Arguably, that is neither GlaxoSmithKline’s nor its public relations company Magna Carta’s fault. They were, after all, just doing their jobs.

For more on the center which employs Dugmore, which he concedes is not without its own conflicts of interest, see our coverage of the work of his colleague, Guy Berger.