Media and Public Health Sectors jointly to improve immunisation
by Nineta Popovic
SARAJEVO / April 28, 2010 - In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the 2010 European Immunisation Week was marked with a special conference, gathering some 80 Public health professionals, media representatives and parents’ associations from 20 cities of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The aim of the conference, titled “Cross-sectoral Cooperation for Immunisation” was to strengthen the dialogue between the media, public health system and general public, and to explore the strengths and weaknesses of Public Health Communication System in the Country, especially focusing on immunisation.
UNICEF and WHO supported the organization of this event, as well as the series of activities, which are simultaneously taking place in the field.
The health professionals stressed the importance of professional reporting, highlighting the possible consequences for public health, which sensationalism in reporting may cause.
The epidemiologists from both entities of BiH presented the figures, showing an increase in number of children and young people infected with rubella. In Federation of BiH 1083 cases were registered, while in the RS there are some 1000 cases.
“Immunisation not only protects children - it protects the community. If we let the rubella virus to spread around, by not immunizing the children, they will get it and recover fast. Somebody may ask: “Why should I immunize my child, if rubella is such a mild disease?” Although it is generally mild for children, it can transfer to pregnant women. If infected by rubella, most likely, they would lose their babies”, said Dr Jelena Ravlija, Chief Epidemiologist in FBiH.
Pediatricians working in small communities stated how they feel neglected by the mass media and stressed the necessity of the media support for the promotion of immunization in rural areas. They have also said the global promotion of health care system reform which is promoted by RS media does not reflect in their work with children and families.
During the discussion it was also highlighted how important is to rely on radio, when sharing public health related information, as the radio is reaching out the most distant areas.
UNICEF Representative in BiH Ms. Florence Bauer, referred to UNICEF regional initiative to strengthen health communication and promotion capacity in government health systems: promoting immunization, rebuilding public trust and effectively responding to crises. “The EIW creates an excellent opportunity to restore public trust in immunization and highlights the importance of filling in the immunization gaps.” – added Ms Bauer.
Mr. Radenko Udovicic, Director of the NGO Media Initiatives, moderated and opened the Conference, presenting the results of recent research on media reporting on children, focusing on the health issues. The comparative analysis of two newspaper articles, reporting on the same issue from totally different perspectives, left a strong impression with all the participants.
Most of the journalist shared similar opinion, when it comes to socially responsible reporting. “It is important to build the trust between public health sector and media. The trust building must be based on sharing and distributing accurate and true information, no matter is it good or bad.” said one of them.
The journalists from Republika Srpska stated they have a great cooperation with the Ministry and the Public Health Institute. The challenge for them is to get the information from the health institutions, such hospitals or health centres. This is where the role of the Spokesperson or the Public Relations Office is extremely important. Most of the participants agreed that each health institution should have appointed Communication Officer.