Expanded Media Advocacy and News Coverage on NTDs in Uganda

Ministry of Health officials and an NTD expert from RTI answer questions in a mock TV interview during media training in Kampala, Uganda. (Photo by Elizabeth Kurylo for ITI)

Reprinted from Trachoma Matters with permission from the International Trachoma Initiative.

Ministry of Health officials in Uganda gained new media interview and advocacy skills and put them to the test with journalists September 4-6 in Kampala. To help prepare for that country’s launch of its first NTD Master Plan, ITI partnered with RTI International and a local communications firm, Bringing Being into Business, to create an intensive two-day media training for 24 MoH officials, a one-day workshop for 19 journalists, and three days of field visits with reporters to increase accurate reporting about the impact of NTDs in Uganda.

Media Training

The media training included interactive instruction on different types of media, message development sessions, and mock media interviews that were recorded and played back with critique. Over two days, the participants shared their concerns about engaging with reporters (e.g., being misquoted or not knowing answers to every question) and learned the realities of how reporters work. They also learned how to focus on their most important NTD messages in interviews for television, radio and print. They prepared specifically to talk with reporters covering health issues in Uganda during the journalist workshop that would follow on day three.

Feedback from MOH participants included:

“I now don’t feel as apprehensive about dealing with the media as I used to.  I understand how they work.”

“I can now see how the media can in fact be our partner and I see better what they need from us.”

“I liked the opportunity to sit down with my MoH colleagues and review what our key messages about NTDs really should be – I learned a lot from this.”

Journalist Workshop

Nineteen reporters gathered on the third day to learn the facts about neglected diseases in Uganda and the goals of the country’s upcoming NTD Master Plan. They then had an opportunity to ask questions of a panel of MoH officials and NTD experts. A number of interviews were conducted during breaks and then the workshop culminated with a lively discussion on how the MoH and journalists can help meet each other’s needs and work together to raise awareness about health care in Uganda.

Ministry of Health official David Ogutu (second from left) explains NTDs to journalists during a workshop in Kampala. (Photo by Elizabeth Kurylo for ITI.)

Reporters in Uganda ask questions about NTDs during a workshop in Kampala. (Photo by Geoffrey Knox for ITI.)

Feedback from journalists included:

“I didn’t know anything about NTDs before this training and I am now in a much better position to report on the area.”

“I began to understand what the MoH needs from us.”

“I wish we had more time to discuss the barriers and issues that are between the MoH and journalists working well together – it was a rare and valuable opportunity.”

Field Visits

The following week, four journalists accompanied MOH officials and ITI’s communications manager into the field to visit areas where NTDs are endemic so they could see firsthand how treatment and prevention of these diseases is possible. The group witnessed several mass drug administrations (MDAs) and learned about the impact of NTDs on individual lives.

These two children are among four in the same family who have trachoma. Journalists met them at a health center in rural Uganda during a field visit. (Photo by Elizabeth Kurylo for ITI.)

Journalists talk with Aggrey Wambi (left, seated) who has had Lymphatic Filariasis in his legs for more than a decade. (Photo by Elizabeth Kurylo for ITI.)

As a result of the field visits, more than a dozen stories were filed in Ugandan newspapers, radio, and TV as well as online blogs. See media coverage here.

ITI has supported similar trainings to build media and advocacy capacity in Ethiopia and Kenya through the generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This was ITI’s first partnership with RTI International and the ENVISION Project, funded by the US Agency for International Development, which provided on-the-ground assistance throughout as well as expertise on NTDs in Uganda. ITI and RTI are planning to use this well-received media training model followed immediately by a journalists workshop and field visits to support advocacy efforts in other countries where trachoma and NTDs are endemic.

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