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Engaging media in communicating research on sexual and reproductive health and rights in sub-Saharan Africa: experiences and lessons learned

Published on 1 January 2011

Background: The mass media have excellent potential to promote good sexual and reproductive health
outcomes, but around the world, media often fail to prioritize sexual and reproductive health and rights issues or
report them in an accurate manner. In sub-Saharan Africa media coverage of reproductive health issues is poor
due to the weak capacity and motivation for reporting these issues by media practitioners. This paper describes
the experiences of the African Population and Health Research Center and its partners in cultivating the interest
and building the capacity of the media in evidence-based reporting of reproductive health issues in sub-Saharan
Africa.
Methods: The paper utilizes a case study approach based primarily on the personal experiences and reflections of
the authors (who played a central role in developing and implementing the Center’s communication and policy
engagement strategies), a survey that the Center carried out with science journalists in Kenya, and literature review.
Results: The African Population and Health Research Center’s media strategy evolved over the years, moving
beyond conventional ways of communicating research through the media via news releases and newspaper
stories, to varying approaches that sought to inspire and build the capacity of journalists to do evidence-based
reporting of reproductive health issues. Specifically, the approach included 1) enhancing journalists’ interest in and
motivation for reporting on reproductive health issues through training and competitive grants for outstanding
reporting ; 2) building the capacity of journalists to report reproductive health research and the capacity of
reproductive health researchers to communicate their research to media through training for both parties and
providing technical assistance to journalists in obtaining and interpreting evidence; and 3) establishing and
maintaining trust and mutual relationships between journalists and researchers through regular informal meetings
between journalists and researchers, organizing field visits for journalists, and building formal partnerships with
professional media associations and individual journalists.
Conclusion: Our experiences and reflections, and the experiences of others reviewed in this paper, indicate that a
sustained mix of strategies that motivate, strengthen capacity of, and build relationships between journalists and
researchers can be effective in enhancing quality and quantity of media coverage of research.

Publication details

published by
BioMed Central
language
English

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