1st Medical Journalism Training Workshop- Ghana

The two-day conference brought together members of the Medical Journalists’ Association-Ghana and resource personnel from Ghana and Kenya. It took place on 25th and 26th August, 2017 at the National Blood Bank and the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Central Laboratory, Acccra-Ghana respectively.
A welcome address was given by the MJA Executive Secretary, Miss Mary Nafaye. The President, Mr. Wright Amesimeku went on to give the aims and objectives of the training workshop which is basically to gain adequate knowledge in medical journalism to enable us write excellent health stories from press releases, be excellent science communicators and researches.
A short address was given by Dr. Affail Monney, President of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) who highlighted the deficit in journalism in the country and how our laws do not make it any easier for information reaching the general public to be regulated. There was an interactive session afterwards where members deliberated on what Dr. Monney said. Participants said some key things from his speech, the primary one being that we need to tell our health stories well as medical journalists.
Mr. Amesimeku made a presentation on “Infectious diseases and its impact and intervention by the government” where he mentioned some diseases such as Cholera; how the society has played a major role in its outbreak and spread through practicing of poor hygiene and poor sanitation thereby resulting in increased morbidity and mortality and what interventions the government has put in place so far as well as what we as medical journalists can also do to intervene.
Mrs. Gloria Ntow, Deputy Director of the Institutional Care Division (ICD) of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) was next to present. She gave a brief talk on the “Opportunities and challenges in managing of infectious diseases” where she mentioned the need to adopt the “One health concept”; a collaborative effort of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals and the environment. She also mentioned some opportunities in managing infectious diseases, the key one being public education which has led to early reporting hence saving lives as well as some challenges, one of them being inadequate funding in managing diseases.
There was a coffee break where members had 15 minutes to interact with one another.
The next speaker who was also the facilitator from Kenya was Mr. Daniel Aghan who started by conducting a short exercise where members wrote down their names, occupations, what they expect to gain from the workshop and the one thing people do not know about them. It was a fun session which set the right mood for the next agenda which was an introduction to health journalism.
The speaker started by emphasizing how important medical news is, how a single health story could cause individuals to change their behavior and how it catapults scientists that are far from reach into the homes of individuals and families. He further emphasized that medical journalists are needed in every aspect of our lives to challenge claims. This is because, a lot of news in the media are fine-tuned to suit funders, politicians, etc. therefore it is very necessary that we have medical journalists who ask the right questions and challenge every claim made by the scientific community.
The Project Manager of the WFSJ, Anne-Marie Legault then gave an introductory statement from Quebec, Canada through a skype call.
Mr. Daniel Aghan continued his session by introducing us to the 5Ws & H which are guides to help ask the right questions; who, what, where, when, why, and how. He further stated that, for every health story, thinking is the first step; reading is the next and then writing. The major question should be, why do I want to tell the story? Determining the ultimate reason for pursuing a particular health story makes it easier to ask the right questions and get the right content. He added that, the media is flooded with stories ranging from business, sports to politics and it is therefore necessary for medical journalists to write their stories and make a difference. He also said that, sources of information are an important area of concern since it determines the credibility of the story and hence should be taken note of. The session ended with Mr. Daniel Aghan speaking on how to pitch a health story and he showed a short documentary on MESHA. Questions were asked by members and answers provided accordingly. An assignment was given to members to write blog posts on the various talks given.
On the following day, the session started with Mr. Daniel Aghan talking on what to look for in a press release. He touched on the importance of networking and how it yields scoop. He further stated the importance of challenging all information and knowing where the boundaries end in terms of serving the audience. ‘No story is worth your life’, he said. The last session was on
techniques of pitching where, how to write a pitch letter, timeliness and how to set targets were taught. The training workshop was highly interactive with attending members demonstrating a high level of interest and enthusiasm throughout the entire workshop.
The chairman of MJA-G, Prof. George Asare then gave the closing remarks which brought the workshop to a halt.
The Medical Journalists’ Association-Ghana is thankful to the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ), Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), the Ghana Health Service (GHS), the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Mr. Daniel Aghan and all other speakers and finally the attending members.


Cindy Agbeme

MJA Ghana

Special feature on what you don’t know about eggs … Part 2

… In the U.S., an average diet provides about 300 milligrams of choline per day – less than the recommended amount for an adult woman (425 milligrams) or an adult man (550 milligrams). Since one egg provides over 100 milligrams of choline and only 75-80 calories, it provides far more choline for far less calories than most other choline-rich foods. The mineral content of eggs also deserves special mention here–not because eggs are a rich source of most minerals but because they are a rich source of certain minerals that can sometimes be difficult to obtain from other foods. Eggs are a very good source of both selenium and iodine. While many fish, shellfish, and mushrooms can be rich sources of selenium, persons who avoid these foods may sometimes have difficulty getting an adequate amount of this important antioxidant mineral from food. For persons who do not use iodized salt in recipes or at the table and who do not consume yogurt or cow’s milk, this mineral can also sometimes be challenging to obtain from food.
The nutrients found in an egg are distributed fairly evenly between the yolk and the white. This distribution of nutrients is a common characteristic of whole, natural foods and it is one of the reasons that we recommend consumption of whole eggs (except, of course, when only the yolk or the white is called for in a recipe). The chart below explains what approximate percent of the total nutrient amount is found in the yolk and the white of an egg. You will notice that the first four nutrient groupings are those that are found predominately in the egg white, while those that follow are found predominately in the egg yolk (all except for the last nutrient, selenium, which is divided fairly evenly between the egg white and yolk).
Chicken eggs are by far the most common type of egg consumed in the U.S., and the breeding of chickens for egg production has resulted in breeds that can lay 200-300 eggs per hen per year. Some of the more popular egg-laying breeds include White Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, Golden Coments, Red Sex Links, Isa Browns, Australorps, Black Star, Red Star, Light Sussex, and Plymouth Rock. All of these breeds belong to the same genus, species, and subspecies of animal, namely, Gallus gallus domesticus. You may also hear chickens being referred to as “Junglefowl,” which is a common name for all animals belonging to the Gallus genus.
The composition of an egg is usually described as having two basic parts: the white and the yolk. The white is approximately 87% water and 13% protein, and contains both vitamins and minerals. The yolk is about 50% water, 33% fat, and 17% protein; like the white, it also contains both vitamins and minerals.
Egg grading standards are based on the clearness, firmness, and thickness of the white, the presence or absence of defects in the yolk (like blood spots or meat spots), the size of the air cell inside of the shell (the smaller this air space, the higher quality the egg), and the cleanness of the shell, including the absence of any slight breakage. Eggs that score highest on these qualities are graded “AA.” Fairly close in quality are “A” eggs. The shelf life of an egg is related to its grade, and a fresh AA egg will have a longer shelf life than a fresh A egg.
Today, egg production in the U.S. has reached a level of 762 billion eggs per year. About 70% of these eggs are sold and purchased in whole form, and about 30% are removed from shells at “breaker plants” across the country and converted into egg products, including both liquid and dried yolks and whites. Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and California are the country’s top five egg-producing states. On a global basis, the U.S. is the largest egg-producing country in the world, followed by Mexico and Brazil. However, small numbers of eggs are produced in most countries worldwide, and out of the world’s total (63.7 million tons of hen’s eggs), only 20% (12.8 million tons) are produced in all North American, Central American, and South American countries combined.
If you do decide to consider the addition of eggs to your meal plan, we encourage you to take a close look at your overall diet. Could it use more protein? If so, eggs might make sense. Does it already have plenty of fibre? If not, it might make more sense to add a fibre-containing food rather than eggs. We are confident that in many diets, pasture-raised eggs can provide key nutrient benefits and lower your disease risk, despite some of the confusion that we have come across in the food science research.
By Bismark Adika/MJA-Ghana

Special feature on what you don’t know about eggs … Part 1

It is common to hear eggs being lumped together with dairy foods and referred to as “eggs and dairy. It is important, however, to understand how eggs are unique as a food. Chickens—and the eggs laid by female chickens (hens)—belong to the bird class of animals (Aves). Hen’s eggs are one among many types of bird eggs enjoyed in diets worldwide. Eggs from ducks, geese, quail, turkeys, and ostriches are also part of many cuisines. Birds (including chickens) are omnivore, which means that they eat both meat and plants. Hens, for example, often enjoy eating insects, insect larvae (grubs), and worms. Some of this intake helps explain the unique combination of nutrients found in eggs.
All B vitamins are found in eggs, including vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, choline, biotin, and folic acid. Choline is a standout among these B vitamins. In fact, eggs rank higher in choline than any of our other foods.
Although research has shown that egg possess the best protein, its consumption in Ghana is relatively low, researchers say this is due to the impression that egg contains cholesterol. It is to demystify this impression that the Ghana National Association of Poultry Farmers (GNAPF) has organized a stakeholders meeting to create awareness in Ghanaians that eating at least one egg a day is good for their health
Speaking at the event, the National Chairman of the Association, Victor Oppong Agyei stated that, there are two types of cholesterol which eggs have and are good for the human body and urged Ghanaians to discard the myth surrounding the eating of egg
According to him, the myth that egg contains too much of cholesterol so we should not eat not eat too much of it is far-fetched and that the two types of cholesterol which are High Density Liquid Protein (HDL) and Low Density Liquid Protein (LDL) and they all have their respective functions in the body and so there is nothing wrong with eating two or three eggs a day.
Eggs have long been recognized as a source of high-quality protein. The World Health Organization (WHO) and other public health authorities actually use eggs as their reference standard for evaluating the protein quality in all other foods. Egg protein is usually referred to as “HBV” protein, meaning protein with High Biological Value. Since eggs are used as the reference standard for food protein, they score 100% on the HBV chart. The high quality of egg protein is based on the mixture of amino acids it contains. (Amino acids are the building blocks for making proteins.) Eggs provide a complete range of amino acids, including branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, valine), sulfur-containing amino acids (methionine, cysteine), lysine, tryptophan, and all other essential amino acids. Their protein is sometimes referred to as a “complete protein” for this reason.
Another complicating factor in egg research is the fibre-free nature of eggs. Since fibre typically has a risk-lowering affect for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, egg intake might show up as problematic in a diet that was otherwise very low in fibre, yet helpful in a diet that was otherwise rich in fibre. These factors described above do not change our view of eggs as an unusually nutrient-rich food that can provide a unique combination of nutrients for a very small number of calories. But they do underscore the importance of integrating eggs into an otherwise healthy meal plan.
Not all egg studies show potential cardiovascular benefits, however, and in some studies, egg intake has been related to some increased mortality risk. However, as mentioned previously, it is been difficult for researchers to separate out the possible role of other foods in many studies. Particularly in mortality studies, which often examine diet in very general terms, they are unable to look closely at specific egg amounts in the diet
In recent years, there has been a food marketplace trend of greater availability of eggs that are unusually rich in omega-3 fats. These eggs get their high levels of omega-3s through the addition of omega-3 oils to the hen’s feed. Oils added to the hen’s diet as a way of increasing omega-3s include menhaden oil, krill oil, flaxseed oil, and algae oil. The supplementation of the hen’s diet with these oils usually produces as much as 250 milligrams of omega-3s per egg yolk. What many consumers do not know is that virtually all egg yolks contain omega-3 fats and that by providing hens with a natural, pasture-based diet their omega-3 levels can be naturally increased. Eggs have always had a primary place in mythologies, religions, and cultural practices worldwide, and have typically been regarded as symbols of rebirth, renewal, beginnings, and fertility. One of the most widely held food and holiday associations is that of the Easter egg. How the egg became associated with this holiday seems to have roots that are both biological and cultural. Before the more modern techniques of poultry raising, hens laid few eggs during the winter. This meant that Easter, occurring with the advent of spring, coincided with the hen’s renewed cycle of laying numerous eggs.
Additionally, since eggs were traditionally considered a food of luxury, they were forbidden during Lent, so Christians had to wait until Easter to eat them—another reason eggs became associated with this holiday. Interestingly enough, the custom of painting eggshells has an extensive history and was a popular custom among many ancient civilizations, including the Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks, and Persians
While organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA) allow for regular consumption of eggs in a meal plan, they typically warn that eggs are difficult to include because of their high cholesterol content and potential for increasing risk of heart disease. For persons with health blood cholesterol levels not needing cholesterol-lowering drugs, the AHA recommends a maximum of 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day from food. Since one conventionally produced egg contains about 180-220 milligrams of cholesterol, about two-thirds of the daily limit gets used up by consumption of one egg. Interestingly, several recent large-scale diet studies suggest that the cholesterol content of an egg may be less of a concern in relationship to heart disease than previously thought.
By Bismark Adika/MJA-Ghana

Is sugar a sweet old friend that is secretly plotting your demise?

… Consumption of processed foods (which are laced with sugar) cost the American public more than $54 billion in dental bills each year, so the dental industry reaps huge profits from the programmed addiction of the public to sugar products. …Today we have a nation that is addicted to sugar. In 1915, the national average of sugar consumption (per year) was around 15 to 20 pounds per person. Today the average person consumes his/her weight in sugar, plus over 20 pounds of corn syrup. To add more horrors to these facts there are some people that use no sweets and some who use much less than the average figure, which means that there is a percentage of the population that consume a great deal more refined sugar than their body weight. The human body cannot tolerate this large amount of refined carbohydrates. The vital organs in the body are actually damaged by this gross intake of sugar.
Carrying excess weight increases your risk for deadly conditions such as heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes. Fructose is the primary cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver and elevates uric acid, which raises your blood pressure, stresses your kidneys, and leads to the chronic, low-level inflammation that is at the core of most chronic diseases; metabolically speaking, fructose is alcohol “without the buzz”.
It would be wise for most people to limit their daily fructose consumption to less than 25 grams per day; a table showing the fructose content of many foods is provided, especially if you show signs of insulin resistance such as being overweight, high blood pressures, high cholesterol, or diabetes. Your body metabolizes fructose much differently from glucose; the entire burden of metabolizing fructose falls on your liver, where excess fructose is quickly converted into fat.
Surprisingly, when it comes to consumption and the effects of sugar, what is often heard are; all things in moderation, a little bit won’t hurt, or it is fuel for the brain. Indeed, there could be a justification for consuming sugar in some amount but the question is: should sugar ever be consumed and if so, in what amount?
Again, it is often argued that sugar is okay in some moderation and that eliminating any “food group” is dangerous. Certainly, avoiding an actual macronutrient category completely (carbohydrate, protein or fat) would be problematic, but sugar in itself is not a food group. Though sugar in some form is naturally present in many foods, by itself, it contains: no nutrients, no protein, no healthy fats and no enzymes. That means you need to keep the sugar down to between 25 grams and 37.5 grams per day.
In fact, it is just empty and quickly digested calories that actually pull minerals from the body during digestion. It creates a hormone cascade when consumed that starts a positive feedback loop in the body to encourage more consumption. In a time when food was scarce and needed to be contained in large amounts in the summer when available to survive the winter, this was a good thing. In today’s world of constant access to processed foods, this natural biological purpose highlights one of the negative effects of sugar. Agave syrup, falsely advertised as “natural,” is typically HIGHLY processed and is usually 80 percent fructose. The end product does not even remotely resemble the original agave plant.
Honey is about 53 percent fructose2, but is completely natural in its raw form and has many health benefits when used in moderation, including as many antioxidants as spinach. Stevia is a highly sweet herb derived from the leaf of the South American stevia plant, which is completely safe (in its natural form.
According to Dr. Robert Lustig, who is a Professor of Paediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at University of California, San Francisco, and Director of the Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health (WATCH) Program at UCSF, explain in his lecture that, Fructose especially is harmful and the effects of sugar on the body, especially the liver is worst. He added that “There is no way around it. Sugar is bad for you. Research shows that, an average American eats pounds and pounds of refined sugar per day. According to the USDA, the average person consumes 150 to 170 pounds annually. A healthy amount is not more than 36 pounds per year.
The single largest source of calories for Americans comes from sugar specifically high fructose corn syrup. Below are the sugar consumption trends of the past 300 years;
*In 1700, the average person consumed about 4 pounds of sugar per year.
In 1800, the average person consumed about 18 pounds of sugar per year.
*In 1900, individual consumption had risen to 90 pounds of sugar per year.
*In 2009, more than 50 percent of all Americans consume one-half pound of sugar PER DAY—translating to a whopping 180 pounds of sugar per year!
What is particularly disturbing is seeing how it affects young children. Sugar can weaken the immune system and bones and destroy vitamin D and calcium. Anyone who consumes too much sugar is at risk for developing diabetes. Sugary Drinks Kill 184,000 People Every Year
“Sugar is a food that is often hard to resist, and cutting sugar out of your diet can be challenging,” John Giles Medical Director at Benenden said in a press statement. But the hope is that more information will lead to better decisions
By Bismark Adika/MJA-Ghana

Is sugar a sweet old friend that is secretly plotting your demise?

There is a vast sea of research suggesting that sugar is a sweet old friend that is secretly plotting the demise billions of people across the globe.
Indeed, science has now shown beyond any shadow of doubt that sugar in every food, in all its myriad of forms, is taking a devastating toll on our health. Sugar is loaded into almost every soft drinks, fruit juices, sports drinks, and hidden in almost all processed foods from bologna to pretzels to Worcestershire sauce to cheese spread.
And now most infant formula has the sugar equivalent of one can of Coca-Cola, so babies are being metabolically poisoned from day one of taking formula. Most often, when we talk about sugar, we are referring to a mixture of glucose and fructose, both simple sugars that are contained in various amounts in different foods.
Dr. David Reuben, author of Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Nutrition says, “White refined sugar-is not a food. It is a pure chemical extracted from plant sources, purer in fact than cocaine, which it resembles in many ways. Its true name is sucrose and its chemical formula is C12H22O11. It has 12 carbon atoms, 22 hydrogen atoms, 11 oxygen atoms, and absolutely nothing else to offer.” …The chemical formula for cocaine is C17H21NO4. Sugar’s formula again is C12H22O11. For all practical purposes, the difference is that sugar is missing the “N”, or nitrogen atom.”
Since sugar is in just about every kind of processed food, many people don’t even realize how much they are eating. But this interactive tool could be the eye-opener that gets folks to start reading labels. The tool comes from the Benenden Healthcare Society in York, England where users can chose to look at the effects of sugar on a man, woman or five-year-old child.
However, dextrose, fructose, and glucose are all monosaccharides, known as simple sugars. The primary difference between them is how your body metabolizes them. Glucose and dextrose are essentially the same sugar. However, food manufacturers usually use the term “dextrose” in their ingredient list.
The simple sugars can combine to form more complex sugars, like the disaccharide sucrose (table sugar), which is half glucose and half fructose. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose.
Right away, you might guess that too much sugar can cause weight gain and also tooth decay. But sugar affects at least 11 different major systems in your body. The tool lets you peruse those various systems, such as the brain (anxiety, depression, memory loss); skin (wrinkles); circulatory (high blood pressure); and digestive (cramps and bloating); to name a few.
Ethanol (drinking alcohol) is not a sugar, although beer and wine contain residual sugars and starches, in addition to alcohol.
Sugar alcohols like xylitol, glycerol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, and erythritol are neither sugars nor alcohols but are becoming increasingly popular as sweeteners. They are incompletely absorbed from your small intestine, for the most part, so they provide fewer calories than sugar but often cause problems with bloating, diarrhoea, and flatulence.
Sucralose (Splenda) is NOT a sugar, despite its sugar-like name and deceptive marketing slogan, “made from sugar.” It’s a chlorinated artificial sweetener in line with aspartame and saccharin, with detrimental health effects to match. Sugar exists in many forms besides just the white powdered (usually GMO) beet sugar we can pick up at the grocery store. There are effects of sugar in all of its forms (including corn syrup, honey, and maple syrup) and we are consuming more of it now than ever before.
Weight gain and abdominal obesity experienced by so many Westerners. Today, 32 percent of Americans are obese and an additional one-third is overweight. Compare that to 1890, when a survey of white males in their fifties revealed obesity rate of just 3.4 percent. In 1975, the obesity rate in America had reached 15 percent, and since then it has doubled.
In 1893, there were fewer than three cases of diabetes per 100,000 people in the United States. Today, diabetes strikes almost 8,000 out of every 100,000 people.
One of the primary sources of calories for Americans is sugar—specifically high fructose corn syrup in soda and processed foods. Because of advances in food processing technology in the 1970s, fructose derived from corn has become very cheap and is widely used in the majority of processed foods for increased sales….

By Bismark Adika/MJA-Ghana