The media, especially health reporters, have been tasked to educate the public on preventive health issues as a critical step to reducing the disease burden of the country.
Dr Kweku Rockson, a Lecturer at the Ghana Institute of Journalism, said the media were seen as important social institutions that determined how society perceived issues hence the need to avoid sensationalism and use their platforms to help change attitudes.
Dr Rockson was speaking at a training programme organised by the Ghana Health Service on; Health Reporting with special focus on Public Health Emergencies, to build the capacities of health reporters to enhance their work.
He said health reporting was technical and scientific and, as such, it was important that health reporters remained knowledgeable and professional to arouse public interest and understanding on health issues.
Dr Rockson urged the media to observe high ethical standards, human dignity and rights and abide by guidelines such as the National Media Policy, Broadcasting Standards and the Ghana Journalist Association’s Code of Ethics.
He said from a social science perspective, the media practitioners were expected to utilise social science methods to gather and disseminate scientific information in an intelligent and intelligible manner.
Dr Rockson said health reporters must ensure they provided accurate, reliable and factual information and avoid creating unnecessary fear and panic in emergency situations.
He said to come up with good reportage, health reporters must endeavour to liaise with the healthcare delivery systems, public health infrastructure, medical schools and research institutions to gather the relevant information to enrich their stories.
Ms Rebecca Akwonu, the Director of Public Affairs of the Ghana Health Service, said preventive health education helped to create awareness on fact- backed approaches to explain the need to assume certain attitudes, practices and cultures to prevent the outbreak of diseases including cholera, malaria and meningitis.
She said preventive health was much cheaper than the cost of treating illnesses, therefore, public campaigns must be sustained through constant media reportage and engagements with health professionals and policy makers.
Dr Dennis Laryea, a Public Health Specialist, said the media must help to educate the public on how to administer first aid during emergencies in order not to aggravate victim’s conditions.