Media practitioners have been challenged to up the ante in their reportage by also educating the people on how to protect themselves in times of outbreak of diseases as in the case of COVID-19.
World Health Organization (WHO) health Emergency Communications specialist Chima E. Onuekwe spoke yesterday at a one-day sensitization meeting of Media Personnel on COVID-19 behavioral Change and information management in FCT organised by World Health Organization in collaboration with FCT Public Health/COVID-19 Emergency Operations Centre (EOC).
Onuekwe in his presentation said journalists inform, create awareness but when it comes to education the media is not doing so well.
“In an outbreak situation people become tensed, what do they need, they need words of encouragement, they need some one who will tell them it is not the end of the world even if they test positive but what do we see, man bites dog. That is what we get and it becomes bold headline.”
He said the pres should specialise in confidence building, “we need to build peoples confidence because in a situation where we have a weak health system and we have an outbreak like this people can easily lose confidence in Government and in the health system so what do we need to do?
“We need to build confidence from the way we write, from the way we report.
“So we need to ask, what is it that the public want which the media does not offer?
“We do not offer this education, motivation, confidence building, these are what we do not offer and they are what the public want desperately in any emergency.”
“We did a small survey in an IDP camp in Borno State and we just asked a simple question, it was during a cholera outbreak and we asked them if they were aware of cholera outbreak in Borno State?
“76% was aware, 15% said they did not hear about it and 9% said they were not aware at all.
“We Asked them if they were aware in Muna IDP camp, what would they do?
40% said they would want information on how to protect themselves, and that is the education, that is usually what the public want.
“20% wanted to know what international organizations are doing, 15% wanted to know the names of places and what the government is doing to stop it.
10% wanted to know the number of people affected.”
He said the media most of the times are concerned about how many people have been affected because for them the figures help them to make headlines.
“1000 people down with cholera, 10,000 affected by COVID-19, for us that is the news but for the public that is the least of what they want.”
According to him, So many other researches that have been done corroborated and proved it.
He said from observations, in Borno, during the Ebola outbreak a person was asked, to what extent were newspaper publications were educative in giving protective tips to improve knowledge of Nigerians to adopt Ebola Preventive measures, only 9.8% were educative compared to 61% that were merely informational.
“The story concluded that the media did too little to educate the public and empower them for necessary skills. This was done in Nigeria.
He said Other observation in other parts of the world also followed the same trend
“Instead of focusing on the medical literature and facts related to Ebola many of our colleagues found the hysteria and fear,
“It was an opportunity to educate inform and reassure which was to a great extent missed. I am bringing this up so that we don’t have a repeat experience at the end of COVID-19.
“It happened during cholera outbreak in Borno State. It would be too bad if we allow it to happen at the end of COVID-19, remember researchers are working now in all fields, people are doing a lot of media researches and in the next few months we would be seeing a lot of these.”
He said the media ended up all the time providing the information but without guiding people on how to protect themselves.
“It is our job to provide that information that will enable people get information that will protect them.
He said the media are partners in Public health which is defined as the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities achieved by promoting healthy lifestyles, researching disease and injury prevention, and detecting, preventing and responding to infectious diseases
Another presenter Moji Makonjuola said the media has a lot of work to do especially as the fear of COVID-19 is the beginning of wisdom.
She said some talk about the fact that the vaccine kills.
She said the media should do specialised human angle story by asking people around whether they have tested? “Supposed you test positive, what would you do? What are you doing to ensure that you remain negative?
“Go to the market, those are where we can find them. When you talk to a market woman who believes, she says