As a result, an initiative for mobilising journalists, policymakers, journal editors, researchers and librarians to improve health communication and public understanding has been created in Uganda.
A group of 65 people gathered in Uganda in the first of a series of ‘Building Bridges’ forums in April this year, and came up with the Munyonyo declaration on health communication.
An advisory committee was created this month (2 August) to help the initiative achieve its objectives.
“If researchers talk to policymakers we can research about a problem and the media can amplify it.”
James K. Tumwine, Makerere University College of Health Sciences
“The ultimate goal is for us to form an alliance, which works towards lobbying for better health,” says James K. Tumwine, a professor of paediatrics and child health at the Uganda-based Makerere University College of Health Sciences.
Building Bridges Forums are organised by the US National Library of Medicine (NLM), in association with the African Health Sciences journal in Uganda, and assisted by the US-based Association of Health Care Journalists and Alfred Friendly Press Partners, and the UK-based Partnerships in Health Information.
Dan Gerendasy, the chief of international programs, NLM, adds: “Our central premise is that greater access to more accurate health information leads to better decisions, healthier behaviours, and more effective policies.
“Building Bridges will foster long-term relationships and sustainable lines of communication between researchers, clinicians, journalists, policymakers, and medical librarians. In so doing, we will create a resilient communication network to disseminate health information to the public and to policymakers, routinely and during humanitarian crises.”
According to the declaration, the initiative also hopes to build national capacity for researchers, policymakers and knowledge intermediaries such as journalists, librarians and journal editors to disseminate timely and evidence-based health information.
“If researchers talk to policymakers we can research about a problem and the media can amplify it,” adds Tumwine, who is also the editor-in-chief of the African Health Sciences journal. About funding and sustaining the network, Gerendasy says that the NLM has pledged US$46,000 to support the Ugandan programme and others to be established in other African countries.
“We will undoubtedly need to draw in outside funding to sustain and expand this programme. For the time being, the NLM has earmarked funds to build an electronic list serve/blog, a website, and possibly one more workshop,” Gerendasy explains. “Building Bridges-Uganda will be the “proof of principle” for future expansion to other countries. If we do well, I think it will be easy to attract additional funding.”
Lillian Namusoke Magezi, health editor with the New Vision newspaper in Uganda, tells SciDev.Net, “I think the alliance will go a long way in creating better health policies. For us journalists we shall inform and educate the public to improve health literacy in Africa.”
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.