European Union supported SHARE (Strengthening Health, Applying Research Evidence ) project of icddr,b in collaboration with the Press Institute of Bangladesh (PIB), organized an orientation training programme which presented journalists with an opportunity to sharpen their expertise and efficiency on mainstreaming evidence-informed health reporting. Around 25 national reporters on print, electronic and online media attended the orientation on 20-21 March 2018 at the PIB Auditorium, Bailey Road, Dhaka.

Remarking on how journalism and writing in general, affect health policy and encourage positive change in behaviors and decision making among community members, Ms. Catherine Spencer, Director, Communications and Change Management, icddr,b, highlighted these multiple effects of positive journalism in Bangladesh, in her welcome remarks. The inaugural session of the orientation was also facilitated by her, where she appreciated the effective collaboration of icddr,b with PIB in promoting evidence-informed health reporting.

Dr. Iqbal Anwar, Scientist and Director, SHARE project, icddr,b discussed ‘Knowledge translation in health’ with the attendees, while an informative presentation on ‘Urban health scenario in Bangladesh:  who serves the urban poor?’ was illustrated by Dr. Sohana Shafique, Assistant Scientist and Deputy Project Coordinator, icddr,b. Dr. Mushtuq Husain, Co-investigator, icddr,b explored the ideas of ‘Urban poor and NCDs’ to a very communicative audience, followed by Mr. Md. Al-Mamun, Library Manager, icddr,b showing the journalists how and where to get ‘Source of information’. The next sessions of the orientation dealt with group works on ‘Getting information from scientific evidence’, which was facilitated by Dr. Shahed Hossain, Scientist, icddr,b, followed by presentations and knowledge sharing from the attendee journalists.

Dr. Iqbal Anwar identified the current breaches between community-level health programmes and national health policy making. He said, Such initiatives from journalists and media agencies joining hand-in-hand with health research organizations in bringing public health issues in the limelight can strengthen advocacy and policy-making desirable and effective”.  He further explained why investigative findings from researchers should be easily available and accessible for bridging the existing gap between policymakers and health managers in this country.

Refereeing to three published health reports, Dr. Shafique, Dr. Husain, and Dr. Hossain, gave the journalists a number of story ideas worth writing on, ranging from community engagement in the health sector and Non-Communicable Diseases (NDCs) to universal health coverage.

This orientation event helped the journalists to gain knowledge on how a well-informed and informative reporting can be made possible from the growing amount of database related to health information. In response to these, journalists mentioned of the difficulties they have to face all the times to validate the reliability of available health information in online platforms. “I found the journalists’ orientation to be very informative and helpful, especially the part where I learned how to search and find reliable health information from online sources”, mentioned Mr. Mahadi Al-Hasnat, Reporter, Dhaka Tribune.

Considering such complexity, learning efficient approaches to search, locate, identify and access relevant information resources and databases on public health issues were the most important module of the orientation. Mr. Al Mamun showed the journalists how to seek out and uncover scientific literature from PubMed which comprises more than 26 million citations for biomedical literature and research findings from public health journals and online publications from all over the world

‘These orientations can be very useful for journalists working on health issues in Bangladesh. Such events should continue in the coming days. I look forward to more future collaboration with icddr,b,” mentioned Mr. Md. Shah Alamgir, Director General, PIB, in his short yet promising closing remarks. He also pointed out the prominent roles of mass media in disseminating best practices and health evidence to mass population throughout Bangladesh.

In this country, there lies a gap between research evidence and health policymaking, and journalists can help bridge the distance and bring the policy makers and health managers come together. The orientation event was not just a learning experience for the journalists, but also for the facilitators who could gain knowledge from the noteworthy comments, remarks and criticisms from the participants. A similar collaboration between other media agencies and health research institutes can pave way for evidence-informed health reporting in Bangladesh.