Empowering Global Health Reporting: Perspectives from Leading Journalists

Health stories are not just about medical facts; they are intricate tapestries woven with economic, political, and social threads, according to two international health journalists.

Stephanie Nolen, a global health reporter for The New York Times, and Paul Adepoju, a Nigeria-based freelance health journalist and scientist who writes for Health Policy Watch, were guests on Dr. Garry Aslanyan‘s most recent Global Health Matters podcast. They discussed blending local insights with global perspectives when covering health narratives.

“I want to hear these stories from the people who are living them, and I want to tell them from the perspective of the people living them,” Nolen said.

Adepoju went on to say, “It’s not just about ensuring that journalists issue the true voices on the ground, a true reflection of what is being reported, but people like journalists who are around and closest to these places are actually empowered and adequately trained to be able to professionally report these stories at a global, international journalism quality level.”

Uncovering Vital Health Narratives

Aslanyan rolled out this latest episode against a rising wave of misinformation and disinformation, identifying journalists as crucial players in uncovering vital health stories nationally and internationally.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Nolen said she understood that health stories “are economic and political and social stories, and they’re about the most intimate moments of our lives and the things that matter the most to us, that shape how we interact with each other, but there are also always power stories, there are systems stories, and if people don’t have access to health care, then everything else going on in their lives is much less relevant.”

However, COVID helped the rest of the world realise this, too.

“COVID really changed things,” Nolen said. “Suddenly, everybody wants to read an epidemiology story. So that’s a significant difference from four years ago, I would say. Global health is just a microcosm of that larger phenomenon.”

The journalists said the challenge now lies in maintaining the relevance of these stories, ultimately aiding in the achievement of global health goals by ensuring that crucial narratives are effectively shared and highlighted.

“We need to sustain the momentum that COVID created for health stories and ensure that health stories, health issues, don’t find their way back to one tiny corner of the newspaper,” according to Adepoju. There is also the need to empower, amplify, and bring more attention to dedicated health reporting platforms because no matter what we do, there is still a limit to what a general news publication can commit to health reporting, and there are a lot of health issues.”

Nolen agreed. She said, “I think it would be really useful to move past this idea of the health page or that once a week we cover these subjects. To go back to the idea … about health stories being also political, economic, social stories, we just need to take it out of that … silo.”

Listen to previous episodes of Global Health Matters on Health Policy Watch.

Image Credits: Global Health Matters.

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