The African Network for Strategic Communication in Health and Development (AfriComNet) on March 4 held the second learning forum for health and development communication practitioners under the theme “Integrating Social Media into Health and Development Communication.”
The forum – which took place at the Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala – was designed to foster learning and networking among the health and development communication community and was another in a series of Springboard for Health Communication events.
Close to 80 social and behavior change communication (SBCC) practitioners from the Ministry of Health, USAID/Uganda, UNFPA, health journalists, and social marketers attended the forum. Notable among them were more than 20 final year students from the Makerere University School of Journalism and Communication.
In his keynote presentation, Michael Niyitegeka, an accreditation consultant and social media analyst with ICDL Africa, defined social media as being about people, the community and participation. He said it is a shift from monologue to dialogue and this has ultimately changed traditional media and marketing.
“Simply put, it’s about people talking, engaging and communicating locally but with the power to affect globally,” he said, adding that social media is about people coming together in community spaces both online and off to participate in creating, managing and sharing content through conversation.
He urged organizations that want to integrate social media into their work to first establish digital goals, objectives and strategies as well as segmenting and prioritizing their audience.
He noted that to get the most out of social media, health communication organizations need to abide by the ‘one click’ rule whenever possible, develop a constant stream of compelling digital content, collaborate with influencers online, align efforts with public health providers offline and ensure that transparency and authenticity remain paramount.
Showcasing social media in action was Ms. Patricia Kahil, a social media consultant with Reach A Hand Uganda, a Ugandan youth-focused NGO that uses various social media platforms to reach young people.
“As young people for young people we communicate about issues concerning our sexuality and well-being. We build skills and reach out to other young people online and encourage them to positively enjoy the aspects of their sexual health and sexuality,” she said.
During the forum, participants were oriented to the virtual Springboard as a platform to support continued networking among the Uganda health communication community.