Ini Billie, Uyo
Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has said that adequate knowledge of disease outbreaks is a prerequisite for informed reportage.
Director General of NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa said it was important for journalists to have accurate information on issues relating to health or disease outbreaks to be able to report it properly.
Speaking on Thursday while flagging off the virtual 2023 Media Epidemiology, Infodemiology, and Social Behaviour Change/Risk Communication (EIS) fellowship for journalists, Adetifa explained that with the rapidly evolving situation of disease outbreak and pandemic, journalists play an important role in communicating the information to the public.
In the joint training organised by Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), USAID-Breakthrough ACTION Nigeria (BA-N) and the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), the DG said journalists should be equipped with the background knowledge, skills and technical capability to understand what is being thrown at them.
He emphasised that it was important for journalists to understand what is required of them in their reportage, whether it is of new research, a result of drug trials or vaccine trials or things of the test nature of pathogens.
According to him, the fellowship will help journalists, health reporters, and health producers connect with other journalists while equipping them with world-class practical knowledge and relevant skills in proper health reporting.
He added that it would also help them to be better prepared for future outbreak (as disease outbreak is inevitable), saying that training the media professionals in that aspect would help in information management.
The DG recalled how some hypertensive and diabetic patients lost their lives during the Ebola outbreak following the misinformation churned out without verification that bathing with and drinking water mixed with salt would prevent Ebola disease.
Also speaking, the Deputy Project Director, USAID-BA-N, Dr Olayinka Umar-Farouk stated that effective communication would support the public to take on healthier behaviours which could be achieved by equipping the media with the necessary information.
“BA-Nigeria believes in the power of the media as one of the most trusted channels of communication for public health messages, especially during public health emergencies. The public listens to and trusts the media. When the public trusts in the source of information they are likely to act and take on the healthy behaviour.
“It is generally acknowledged that how events are covered in the media, particularly during an outbreak of an unknown disease (where fear and panic thrive), shapes what we know, think, and believe.
“Communication about personal preventive measures and providing the public with correct and true information are imperative during outbreaks as this information empowers the public to take responsibility for their own health.
“However, there is often uncertainty about the facts and conflicting messages disseminated by the varying media channels, leaving the public with a sense of scepticism relating to health messages,” she stated.