Journalism and health

02. What is health journalism? /

Is there anything more comprehensive than health? Reproduction, health preservation, recovery, prevention, healing, care, treatment and care giving.

Multiple topics concern us all in our daily life. Health is a topic that interests us – perhaps it is the subject that concerns us the most – regardless of our country of residence, and whatever our age, gender, and profession.

The World Health Organization defines health as follows: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

The organisation’s constitution also states the following: “The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being, without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.”

Multiple et cruciale, la santé est un sujet marqué par une certaine complexité.

The discovery of the novel Coronavirus and its characteristics in Hubei Province, the emergence of Anopheles mosquitoes in Djibouti which has undermined the effectiveness of the current treatment for malaria, and the scientific research carried out by Shy Arkin’s team in the field of molecular biochemistry in Israel… All are topics involving highly technical information that must be comprehended with an expert’s gaze.

In addition, the concept of health is closely related to political, economic, social, cultural, religious and ethical considerations. For example, it is impossible to think about the gap between political strategies and health practises in Gabon without referring to sociology.

Finally, globalisation proved that the principle of conceiving health from both a local and a global standpoint is instrumental.

Addressing health issues and current scientific research also requires confronting challenges linked to various levels of uncertainty, especially when present times pose a threat to our health and lives.

However, despite this complexity, each of us needs simple, reliable news and information that holds the highest standards of objectivity. Accordingly, the reliability of this news depends not only on a good understanding of public health challenges, but also on the extent to which the decision-making will benefit us and our relatives in the areas of prevention and treatment.

Health journalists face a multitude of problems when the context is turbulent and characterised by uncertainty.

First of all, they must be able to properly accomplish their job, that is, to simplify and explain, to develop their capabilities in comprehending and understanding scientific knowledge, and to be able to communicate about it to people who are unfamiliar with the topic

This means that they should know how to:

  • Access updated data directly, by actively monitoring news and information at the international level. This may be problematic if the media is censored, as is the case in China
  • Find reliable sources and seek the help of the appropriate experts (doctors, researchers
  • Ask the right questions to interviewees
  • Read scientific papers, which requires being familiar with the foundations of the scientific approach, particularly with the various levels of scientific proof.
  • Adapt to the audience and the media.
  • Edit information according to the appropriate format and to the available means

Lastly, they must avoid cognitive bias and ideological, commercial and political influences.

This collection of videos will allow you to understand the complexity involved in health matters and to treat this topic effectively.

A CFI project in partnership with France Médias Monde

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