World Federation of Science Journalists

Journalists' key role in war on TB


April 2, 2007

(source: ISWA)
In an on-line editorial written in recognition of World Tuberculosis Day (March 24), SciDev.Net's director David Dickson noted the frightening re-emergence of TB in both the developed and developing world, with the over a million people dying of the disease every year in the latter.

The reason for this worrying upsurge is two-fold, says Dickson. "First is the emergence of drug resistant strains of the disease, in particular the extremely drug-resistant variant (XDR-TB) that has proved so lethal in South Africa. Second is the way that reduced immunity caused by HIV/AIDS has encouraged the spread of TB in infected individuals."

As grim as the prospects might seem, Dickson thinks that science journalists could play key roles in fighting this new/old scourge, primarily by raising public understanding of the disease and its spread—and affecting public health policies.

He cites the success of the Maisha Yetu project — carried out by the International Women's Media Foundation — which began in 2004 by analyzing the media coverage of HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria in five African countries, and went on to launch a programme to develop better health reporting within media organizations in Botswana, Kenya and Senegal.

In Senegal, this has led to an increase of 20-30 per cent in the number of stories written by provincial reporters on HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria.

For more on that project, a list of eight "best practices" for health reporting, and other information relative to the battle against TB go to: www.scidev.net/worldtbday2007