Reporters who cover health in Africa have a new way to sharpen their understanding of the beat and connect with others in the field: the African Health Journalists Association website.
The site, which features learning resources, health reporting best practices and a vibrant network of more than 200 journalists and experts, launches this week at the 2013 African Media Leaders Forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The association, which was formed in June 2012 as the first continent-wide professional association of health journalists, hopes to use the site to advance the professional development of journalists who cover health, raise the profile of health stories in the media and promote dialogue and understanding between journalists and experts. All this, it believes, can have a direct effect on the health of Africans.
“We want to see improvement in health infrastructure and systems, such as through improved maternal and child health and decreased mortality rates,” said Declan Okpalaeke, a Nigerian journalist who is leading the association as part of his ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellowship. “We want to see the media setting the agenda for policy makers, for health systems and for health institutions.”
Okpalaeke said the site is a “one-stop shop” for health news and information in Africa. It features training videos and access to a range of experts. Resource manuals and fact sheets can help journalists with key information on topics such as vaccines and obesity. The site also provides a constantly updated list of health-related conferences and events and highlights outstanding examples of health stories from across the region.
The site will also help facilitate one of AHJA’s key goals: to connect journalists who want to collaborate on cross-border stories. Regular online discussions and courses will help get them started.
“Through our network, we can link up journalists to do cross-border stories and see how health situations compare in their countries,” Okpalaeke said. “There are always lessons to learn from other journalists covering the same issues.”
Photo of Declan Okpalaeke courtesy of ICFJ.