Posted by: lbenjamin | 11/19/2009

Is reproductive health making headlines in Africa?

Global Health Council Research Associate Rachel Hampton is at the International Conference on Family Planning in Kampala, Uganda.This is the second of her posts from the conference.

KAMPALA, Uganda – On my first morning in here, I bought a copy of the Sunday Vision, the sister paper of Uganda’s leading weekly newspaper, New Vision. Local news and politics dominated the content, and it wasn’t until page 11 that I found an article related to health. The article was actually a letter to the editor from a reader concerned about road safety and traffic injuries after the construction of a new local highway. The remainder of the paper only contained four other pieces about health, mostly focusing on diet and nutrition.

Compared with American print media, the amount of health reportage in the Sunday Vision was extremely low. However, this afternoon at the conference I learned that the content of the Sunday Vision might be greater than other sub-Saharan African newspapers.

During the presentation, “Family Planning, Abortion and HIV in Ghanian Print Media: A Content Analysis of the Most Widely Circulated Ghanaian Newspaper Since 1950,” Amos Kankponang Laar, a student at the University of Ghana, examined the coverage of health issues in the Daily Graphic, a newspaper that reaches more than 200,000 people in 10 regions in Ghana every day. Laar used a composite week sampling technique to select 62 editions from a sample of 443 editions (all editions from Jan. 1, 2008, to March 31, 2009) for analysis. Overall, he analyzed 4,690 items, including straight news, features, editorials and letters to the editor. He found that only 4.2 percent (197) of the articles were about health and, of that, less than 1 percent (25) were on reproductive health. Furthermore, this sample of 62 editions contained only 0.09 percent (4) articles on family planning, 0.04 percent (2) on abortion, and 0.4 percent (19) on HIV/AIDS. Nearly all of the health articles were buried in the middle pages of the papers.

Laar’s study showed a lack of reportage of health issues in the Daily Graphic. I cannot say if that is the case for the New Vision or not based solely on my Sunday copy. What I can say is that findings of Laar’s study could potentially indicate a worrying trend. Another issue that I think could perhaps be of concern is the accuracy of reporting. Laar’s study did not analyze the content of the health articles, but I think it would be interesting to see what it is the reporters are writing, and whether or not this stands up to fact. It is not only important that health makes the headlines, but it is equally important that people are getting useful, accurate information about their health.

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