The role of the media in strengthening uptake of nutrition evidence

By Kavita Chauhan, Neha Raykar and Moutushi Majumder, Public Health Foundation of India

The Transform Nutrition project in India focuses on generating evidence and engaging with key stakeholders, including the media, to communicate research findings. The Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), in collaboration with Vikas Samvad, a non-governmental organisation based in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh and with support from the POSHAN Project organised a meeting on Data for Nutrition: Role of Media in Strengthening Uptake of Nutrition Evidence. The participants comprised of editors, senior health correspondents, and young journalists from various districts of Madhya Pradesh, who cover health, nutrition and social development issues. A presentation was made on the latest data and key messages from the India Health Report: Nutrition 2015. This was followed by a panel discussion on the need to build a transformative agenda for health and nutrition in the state. The panelists discussed how media can use data to ensure greater attention to public health and nutrition issues and the challenges they face in doing so. Main discussion points from the meeting were:

  • There is a need for support from public health practitioners in the community to assist in shaping public opinion and mobilising greater commitment to nutrition issues.
  • Media will need to look at health and nutrition comprehensively and delve into social and demographic issues which contribute to the root of the undernutrition problem.
  • Combining data with human interest stories will help contextualise the issues – change agents, champions and people who are working at the grass root levels and making a positive impact should be highlighted.
  • Identification of news points are very important for broadcast especially for news channels. The mandate of news channels and programming channels are different. The presentation of a story with special focus on creative handling can play a significant role in the success of programmes.
  • Moving forward, the online platform will provide greater opportunity for contributions as space is a major constraint in magazines and newspapers. However, journalists should carefully validate the information before placing it on social media.
  • Media sensationalism comprises of good and bad sensationalism. There is a need to emphasise good sensationalism. Health news has to be packaged well for the media to cover it and cannot be reported very clinically. Emphasis should be focused on local news.
  • There is a growing importance for the need of self-regulation of the media and to counter the damaging effects of sensationalism of news reporting. o
  • Embedding correct health and nutrition messages in stories will help reinforce the recall of key messages and awareness among communities. o
  • Socially relevant stories work, especially if they are well researched and framed. Thus, the broader societal dimension, in the context of public health nutrition, needs to be explored. Focus on people living in the periphery and tribal communities and talk about their indigenous food practices.
  • Enhancing capacity of journalists through mentorship and training will help contribute to accurate and improved reporting on key issues. This will help develop and follow a sustained information campaign rather than sporadic reporting.
  • Journalists avoiding sensationalism and and considering cultural sensitivity while reporting are the attributes that will lead to a more informed and socially relevant journalism. There is a need to move out of comfort zones and deep-dive into the key determinants of health and nutrition and look for stories behind the numbers.

The way forward for the Transform Nutrition team at PHFI is to transform learning from this meeting into an agenda for media engagement and future meetings with journalists. The meeting was covered by both English and Hindi print media in MP: English coverage | Hindi coverage

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