Innovative course in Public Health Journalism launched

A first-of-its-kind Critical Skills Appraisal Programme (CASP) that offers a unique opportunity for professional skill development of journalism students, mid-level media, editors and government officials, was launched here today. The course, which has been developed  by UNICEF and the George Institute for Global Health in collaboration with the University of Oxford and the Thomson Reuters Foundation, is being offered at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC). 

Giving the keynote address, Dr M. K. Agarwal, Deputy Commissioner, Universal Immunisation Programme, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, highlighted “This intervention with media organisations and journalism schools will bring the expertise of academic networks to support significant improvement in the reportage and understanding of Universal Immunization Programme”.

This module is being envisaged to support the Government of India’s flagship programme on Routine Immunisation – Mission Indradhanush – under the GAVI-Health System Strengthening Plan 2014-16.

Delivering his inaugural speech, Mr. Louis-Georges Arsenault, UNICEF India Representative, said, “Media is a key and strategic partner for UNICEF and this initiative aims to enhance knowledge and skills of media students and journalists on all aspects related to Public Health reporting. We hope this will lead to even more informed and evidence-based coverage of health issues.”

Public health experts from George Institute for Global Health (GIGH), UNICEF, Oxford University, and partners from Reuters Foundation, IIMC and senior members from the media will be actively involved in the delivery of this course.

"The George Institute India is happy to bring together Unicef, University of Oxford and Reuters to train journalists and media students to write better health stories,"  says Dr. Vivekanand Jha, Director, George Institute for Global Health, India, adding "The George Institute has strong links with the University of Oxford on a large number of partnerships aimed to strengthen public health delivery in India through innovation and evidence.:  

We hope that this partnership would  serve to enhance and strengthen media’s critical role in taking an  evidence-based approach to writing health stories ensuring that proper and informed debates on public health issues takes place,’’ he further added. 

Critical Appraisal is a process of carefully and systematically analysing evidence to judge its trustworthiness, value and relevance in a particular context. The steps in critical appraisal involves  asking the right questions, getting the best evidence, tracking the right source of information , critically appraising the evidence and contextualisation of  the news.

Dr Premila Webster, Training Programme Director at the Oxford School of Public Health mentions, “The CASP course is currently being offered to public health professionals in UK. For India, this elaborate module is being also being adapted for media professionals - both budding and experiences - and government representatives, to suit their needs of critical appraisal in the country’s health context.” 

IIMC has streamlined the CASP course to suit their students of journalism. The course is a pilot for IIMC and will also be offered to Government media officials in 2016.

Mr. Sunit Tandon, Director General, Indian Institute of Mass Communication, said that, “The CASP pilot programme, is being offered as a certificate programme to 40 students of IIMC. This module will be delivered as a three-month short course and will comprise of workshops, field visits apart from classroom teaching to give media students a comprehensive idea about ground level realities related to public health issues.”

In 2014, a media analysis of English national dailies and language press was conducted, in association with UNICEF, where it was recognised that the overall situation of media reporting on public health issues in general and especially routine immunisation (RI) has been “news” oriented and event-based. 

Several rounds of consultations with eminent editors, journalists and academicians have led to the creation of a strong module in the context of the present public health landscape in India. 

A three-day workshop is being held in October in which 30 mid-level journalists from various parts of the country will also participate.

To view a video clip of the launch of the course, click here