30 May 2019

South Africa: Should Health Experts Be On Twitter? Here's Why It Can Be Your Own Printing Press

Public health officials and journalists are like two peas in a pot -- they need each other.

You're a public health official and want to get lifesaving information to the public. But how?

Well, there's the news media. But should you trust them?

In May, Bhekisisa's executive director and editor-in-chief Mia Malan opened the Africa Health Exhibition public health conference with a keynote that focused on public health officials can't afford to ignore journalists.

The media sometimes also does a bad job of reporting on health issues. For example, many news publications have incorrectly reported that vaccines cause autism -resulting in parents stopping to vaccinate their children.

Vaccines are not the only public health issue journalists get confused about. During the Thabo Mbeki HIV denialist era in South Africa during the late 1990s and early 2000s, some reporters believed the then president's false claims that HIV did not cause Aids. But health activists quickly responded.

Two decades later, public health officials no longer have to rely on journalists only to get important health information out. They now have their own, free printing presses.

It would be a mistake to pretend that the world hasn't changed. Social media is with us and it is a powerful tool to get health information out. Refusing to use Twitter or Facebook is like rejecting mobile phones in favour of landlines only - you'll fall far behind.

But it's not as simple as it seems. The internet has disrupted authority and power: on social media, the voices of public health experts weigh the same as the opinions of people who spread disinformation - for instance, anti-vaxxers.

So how do we root out faux facts? That's why you need to work with the news media, in addition to being on social media.

Journalists are influential because they have powerful channels to distribute information.

But the news media is not an island. Public health officials and reporters need each other.

Click here to download Mia Malan's the full presentation.

South Africa

Ramaphosa Misled Parliament on Bosasa Donation - Mkhwebane

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has said that President Cyril Ramaphosa deliberately deceived Parliament with regard… Read more »

See What Everyone is Watching

More From: Bhekisisa

Don't Miss

AllAfrica publishes around 700 reports a day from more than 140 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.