When rumor and misinformation fuel the spread of disease and when people ignore or misunderstand health messaging, the need to “get it right” in the appropriate language and cultural context becomes ever more critical for those who work to fight disease outbreaks. New outbreaks, such as Ebola and Zika call for a nimble humanitarian response that leverages trusted information networks to fill information gaps and stop dangerous rumors. Slow burning epidemics have similar challenges but effective strategies are more nuanced. These crises require skilled journalists trained to interpret scientific data, studies, and evolving treatments to help people understand the impact of disease in the long term. Both approaches share the need to engage and inform local communities in trusted, two-way conversations.
Citizens have the right to demand quality health services. When corruption in the health system disrupts services or diverts funding, underserved populations suffer first. Internews has deep experience empowering media and CSOs to hold local authorities to account and ensure an effective health system with better outcomes. Media investigations and informed advocacy on public platforms empower communities to participate in the development of public health systems that encompass their concerns and improve their services.
Cultural norms, taboos, rumors and ingrained personal habits can cause people to resist what is best for their health. When well-meaning interventions are misunderstood, they fail. When norms are out of sync with science, individuals and communities will resist the most effective and contemporary solutions. This resistance leads to unsafe practices and large-scale under-use of health services. An informed media ignites conversations that change norms and attitudes over time and serves as a powerful prophylactic against rumor, misinformation and uninformed bias.