Nutrition journalism is critical

Women showing off fruits in a market. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Malnutrition is still a challenge in Uganda, with the common forms being wasting, stunting, micro-nutrient deficiencies. Covid-19 is likely to increase malnutrition cases.

Have you ever thought of the power of the media? Do you ever imagine what the media is capable of changing or not changing? I am privileged to have had this monologue and it is amazing to know the amount of power and influence the media holds upon the public. I sometimes think the media is like some sort of demi-god.   

In 2014, the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) held in Rome, received extensive media coverage, revealing deep nutrition issues that stirred the world. The media played an important role in ensuring stories from leading newspapers worldwide, as well as reports from televisions and radios, focused on the conference. Social media was awash with activities too.

Mr Mario Lubetkin, the then director of corporate communications at Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and currently the assistant director general at the same organisation, shared his opinion about the role of the media and visibility for malnutrition around the world after the conference. 

Mr Lubetkin said: “Nutrition has achieved visibility as an issue on the global agenda, primarily because of its serious social ramifications in developing and developed countries alike.” But media has to report more.  

A report released in September by Civil Society Alliance for Nutrition Uganda (CIANU) on a survey it conducted about ‘Journalists’ Nutrition Reporting Skills,’ revealed that nearly 70 per cent of journalists in Uganda have not been exposed to any form of training in nutrition reporting much as they broadcast and publish nutrition stories.

The report also indicated that more than 90 per cent of journalists are very much willing and interested in undertaking training in nutrition reporting. 

From these findings, it can be seen that media has a powerful role to play when it comes to disseminating and communicating information around nutrition, for instance, marketing of foods, information about behavioural or lifestyle change like promoting healthy diets, physical activity and consumption of micronutrient-rich foods, including traditional local foods. Being the ears and eyes of the public, society is bound to believe what the media says. 

Thus, more attention needs to be paid to the media by government, civil society, development partners and the private sector in ensuring they are well informed through having access to trainings on nutrition reporting. With frequent training, the media will be able to inform and educate the public about nutrition issues from an informed point of view. 

I am impressed by the recommendations the report put forward, which include developing a nutrition media training guide, incorporating nutrition reporting in journalism curriculum, undertaking regular nutrition reporting skills training, facilitating in-depth media reporting on nutrition, providing mentorship opportunities and fellowship programmes to improve reporting on nutrition.

Designing and disseminating media packages to strengthen nutrition reporting, and advocating for support for nutrition reporting at the editorial and top management levels in the media.

A well informed population in regards to nutrition issues, combined with good programmes and proper food systems, is a healthy productive population that is capable of fostering development. 

Malnutrition is still a challenge in Uganda, with the common forms being wasting, stunting, micro-nutrient deficiencies. Covid-19 is likely to increase malnutrition cases.

Georgine Obwana,
[email protected]