A one-day workshop for journalists held Oct. 2 by the LIberian Ministry of Health (MOH) in collaboration with partners brought together about 35 Monrovia- and community-based journalists. The workshop was designed to foster a stronger partnership between the media and MOH to improve communication, especially during a public health crisis such as the recent Ebola outbreak.
About a dozen local reporters and local voices participated in the workshop, which was organized by the Health Communication Capacity Collaborative (HC3) Liberia office.
Adolphus Yeiah, Margibi County community health officer (CHO), welcomed participants and indicated the forum was intended to create and stimulate a partnership between the media and the MOH.
Speaking on behalf of the World Health Organization (WHO), Liliane Luwaga embraced the workshop and noted the media has a greater reach than the MOH and its partners. She then challenged the media to continue to report during difficult and good times.
Luwaga defined risk communication “as one essential lifesaving action in public health emergencies” and pointed out that in implementing risk communication, one needs to understand the perception of the target audience. Additionally, Luwaga described the purpose of risk communication as “enabling people to take or make informed decisions.” She noted the continued communication around the importance of hand washing.
Also making remarks was HC3’s Carol Doe, who gave an overview of the “Local Voices” media platform, which was initiated by Internews to collect community rumors during Ebola and share them with media institutions nationwide.
Media Consultant, James Wolo’s presentation focused on providing concrete examples of how the media can remain engaged with the community by providing relevant information to make communities safer and healthier to live. He likened a well-informed and knowledgeable population to “a sound mind in a sound body.”
Press Union of Liberia (PUL) President Abdullai Kamara led a discussion on “Experiences in Reporting Ebola and Identifying Gaps in the Relation between Media and Health Sector.” He indicated there were many different types of stories around Ebola, but how well Liberian journalists reported during and after the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak.
UNICEF-Liberia head of C4D, Nance Webber, facilitated a presentation on engaging communities, which she described as evidence-based and a strategic process involving consultation and participation. Webber encouraged journalists to continue to engage community stakeholders by reporting on emerging health issues, such as malnutrition, EVD and non-reporting of deaths.
Webber concluded by calling on journalists to support the sustained integrated polio/immunization campaign messages and nutrition. The media, she stressed, is “strategic in information dissemination and the MOH should keep its doors open for engagements.”