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.