African Centre for Global Health and Social Transformation (ACHEST) launched a partnership with the media that was aimed at bringing the media on board on the Health Systems Advocacy Partnership project by organizing a two days orientation retreat. The retreat with the theme: The role of the Media in Strengthening Africa’s Health System bro ught together health reporters from 14 media houses including former editors which ran from 24th to 25th November 2016 at City Royal Resort Hotel in Bugolobi.
The health systems advocacy partnership is a project whose goal is to enable communities to realize their right to the highest attainable Sexual and Reproductive health. The project aims to contribute to achieving Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) by creating space for a strong civil society to engage effectively with governments, the private sector and other stakeholders accountable for health systems, to deliver equitable, accessible and high-quality SRHR services.
While opening the health orientation retreat, Prof. Francis Omaswa, the Executive Director of African Centre for Global Health and Social Transformation (ACHEST) brought to the attention of the media the fact that health systems strengthening is every ones business. Taking care of the health of the people is not a matter for health providers alone, but rather for all the citizenry and the media needs to drum this message across such that a health integrated system which is everyone’s responsibility is achieved.
“The media will therefore play a pivotal role in advocating for a strengthened health system by designing effective advocacy messages and making these messages a key focus in the public sphere so that Ministry of Health starts to pay a special attention to the bottle necks that hamper the process of strengthening health systems.” Prof. Omaswa stated.
Denis Kibira, the Executive Director of Health Promotions and Social Development, HEPS while speaking on the commodities aspect of the HSAP project noted that governments in developing countries spend 20%-60% of their national health budgets on medicines and commodities. As we talk about commodities, we need strong governance and supported human resources for health to handle the commodities since access to medicines is a fundamental human right.
Meanwhile Dr. Charles Wendo, a former editor with the New Vision while making a presentation on Writing an article that catches the eye of an editor tipped the journalists on writing health stories that will win the heart of the editor pointing that, angling a story well is one way of doing it, another is making noise about an idea by backing it with statistics and using pictures, not forgetting the social media that has changed the landscape of the media.
The journalists categorized into: radio, print and TV came up with different story ideas that will be developed into stories and sought for continuous support and partnership opportunities with the Health Systems Advocacy partners. Some of the ideas included among others: Understanding the rights to health; the role and challenges of VHTs in delivering health care, Migration of the Health workforce and the challenges that comes with it.
Dr. Ojoome while presenting on the Human Resources of Health component of the project noted that “Supplies of health workers are not matched by government demand. So many health workers have been churned out, but many of them have not been absorbed into the system.”
Leah Kuhunde, a reporter with Radio One when sharing experiences and challenges of health reporters noted the following challenges: “We get constrained by sources, especially doctors to interview for technical information; we also lack current health statistics and lack of facilitation by our employers among others reduces our efficiency and effectiveness. We therefore request for continuous information sharing and involvement of the journalists in the different projects from the beginning. Kuhunde implored.
Other presenters in the retreat included: Onapito Ekomoloit of Nile Breweries, Robert Odedo of ACHEST, Dr. Patrick Kagurusi of Amref Health Africa Robina Biteyi of White Ribbon Alliance and Dr. Sarah Byakika of Ministry of Health.
While closing the orientation retreat, Prof. Omaswa pledged that the partnership will work closely with the media since it is the media that reaches all the populace that the doctors might not be able to do so.