VICTORIA, November 8 2017 - Whilst their roles are different, journalists together with health workers are often on the frontline of disease outbreaks. It is therefore essential that the media is engaged in preparedness and response efforts, using their voice to share credible information towards reducing public health risks. This is the key message that was put forward during recent trainings conducted for journalists and editors of local media houses in Victoria, Seychelles.
The multi-sectoral Risk Communication Committee established following the recent plague alert in the country conducted trainings with some 25 journalists from the national television outlet, the Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), as well as reporters from other prominent media houses. The training aimed at providing accurate information on plague and also shared lessons and best practices in health emergency reporting.
The media have key roles to play during an outbreak. These include amongst others providing accurate information to the public, providing health advice on detection, prevention and control of the disease, supporting accountability, and focusing on education and information to help stop its spread.
“News reports are often one of the first sources of information for people during an emergency and the information they provide can protect health and save lives,” said Ms Laura Keenan, WHO Risk Communication Specialist. “During an outbreak for instance, media can help the public access basic facts and information, ensure that they know how to prevent infection and what to do if they or someone they know fall sick, and also to clarify rumours or misinformation where there is need,” she added.
WHO continues to support the country’s preparedness to plague following an outbreak in the neighbouring Indian Ocean country Madagascar. It remains a key partner and member of the Risk Communication Committee which also include representative of the Ministry of Health, Department of Risk and Disaster Management (DRDM), Seychelles Tourism Board and SBC.
There have not been any confirmed cases of plague in Seychelles to date. However the country’s relative proximity to Madagascar increases risks of the spread of the disease and the country continues to strengthen preparedness against plague and other possible disease outbreaks. Other activities planned by the Risk Communication Committee include training for spokesperson on the front lines of outbreak communications, orientation for community leaders on their role in a public health outbreak and development of new information, education and communication materials.