Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A health journalist is a health worker too

Dr KK Aggarwal

Communication, as we know, is how we acquire information, how we disseminate information. Effective health communication is crucial for health promotion.

Health journalists have an important role to play in health promotion by increasing health literacy. The reach of the media, whether print, radio, television and/or internet is phenomenal.

In our country, people usually visit their doctors only when they fall sick. News reports on health and medicine are thus their major sources of information and influence health-related behaviors and attitudes. Health journalists increase the level of awareness and knowledge of the general public about any health issue and in this process, they often dispel myths and misconceptions prevalent in the society. It is via news reports that we come to know of the latest advances in medicine, be it drugs, devices, techniques etc.

Particularly during times of outbreaks or epidemics, journalists can help to quickly deliver important health-related messages to the public about the disease in question, the Dos and Don’ts, so that people can take adequate measures to stay safe or when they should seek a doctor’s help.

Diseases such as type 2 diabetes, once considered to be a disease of the affluent countries are now a major cause of morbidity and mortality in developing countries. India, as we know, has the second highest population of people with type 2 diabetes in the world. As diabetes is a lifestyle disorder, it is important that people are aware of the risk factors and how they can be modified. Health journalists can educate the general public about the need to adopt a healthy lifestyle to check the rising prevalence of the disease.

When reporting stories related to health, journalists should ensure that the message should be clear, accurate, complete, factual and relevant as people often make important health care decisions based on what they read or see. The message has to be tailored to the needs of the public.

Health journalists are an important link between the patient and the doctor. As health care communicators, they can be considered as health workers and therefore an integral part of health care delivery.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this write up are entirely my own.

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