Monday, 21 Jan 2013

Health Media Project deepens use of data in health journalism

By Dorothy Otieno, Internews in Kenya.

Journalists and public health officials in Kenya have welcomed Internews’ new health journalism training program, Health Media Project (HMP), describing it as an opportunity to intensify their efforts to help Kenyans access quality, life-saving, health information, especially through data-driven reporting.

Building on the success of the USAID-funded Voices in Health program, for the next four years, HMP will enable Internews to train and mentor journalists to tell compelling stories about HIV, family planning, and maternal and child health. For the first time, Internews will also offer guidance on telling the story of malaria in Kenya.

“The future of journalism is digital and Internews is at the forefront of digital journalism training in Kenya,” said James Ratemo, the online editor for Kenyan TV station NTV. “The Health Media Project award means that the organization will continue to train journalists on the use of digital technologies to tell captivating stories.”

HMP will continue Internews’ use of data journalism to help journalists turn the wealth of available health data in Kenya into stories. The project began with a data journalism roundtable, dubbed The Politics of Health in February 2013.

“If we started using data 60 years ago to inform our policies and programs, Kenya would be a developed nation now,” said the Information and Communication Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo at the data roundtable.

On the eve of Kenya’s general elections, politicians were outlining elaborate plans for improving health services. At the Politics of Health event, journalists were shown how data can help determine whether politicians are delivering on their promises. Journalists learned how number crunching could be a tool to use in their role as public watchdogs.

Most recently, Health Media Project launched a data portal with the aim of further developing data storytelling skills. The platform was built to provide hands-on opportunities for journalists to learn to produce new health stories based on available health data.

Dr. Athanasius Ochieng, a senior scientist at Kenya’s National Aids & STI Control Program (NASCOP), has been working closely with the corps of journalists trained through Internews’ Voices in Health program. He said, “We will continue to work together to empower local media to provide people with the news and information they need to reduce their exposure to HIV.”

The Health Media Project is funded by USAID.

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