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The Role of Journalism in Promoting Evidence Based Health Policy 2 Oct 2013

By Malik Wasim, Save the Children, Pakistan

The Agahi Awards are the first of its kind; an annual awards event for journalists in Pakistan, which began in 2012. These awards are organized by AGAHI and Mishal Pakistan in collaboration with leading press clubs across the country, local and international media development bodies, regulatory authorities.

This year the Agahi Awards created special categories for appreciating health journalism in Pakistan in collaboration with Save the Children’s EVERY ONE campaign. The health category had awards in Mother & Child Health, Child Survival, Health and Nutrition, HIV & AIDS, Non-communicable diseases, Polio Immunization and Routine Immunization. Journalists were awarded and appreciated in fifty different categories including business and economy, conflict, corruption, crime, education, infotainment, the nexus between water, energy and food security, gender and governance, health, extremism and terrorism, peace, interfaith, dignity; thus creating media diversity across print, television, radio and the online media. Being one of the leading advocates for child rights, Save the Children washonored to present awards to journalists for best reporting in Child Rights, Child Labour, Child Protection and Human Rights.

The Auditorium of Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) was full and around 300 journalists, renowned media professionals and civil society members were in attendance. Arshad Mahmood, Director Advocacy and Child Rights Governance, was representing Save the Children’s EVERY ONE campaign and he presented prestigious awards to the health beat journalists for excellence in reporting under six categories including; Mother & Child Health, Child Survival, Health and Nutrition, HIV & AIDS, Non-communicable diseases, Polio Immunization, Child Rights, Child Labour, Child Protection, Human Rights and Routine Immunization. “Pakistan was ranked in the top five countries where most children died before reaching the age of five”. While talking to media, Mr. Mahmood said, “Health has been devolved after the 18th amendment so the responsibility of both NGOs and the media has increased. Less than 1,000 days are left in the expiry of the Millennium Development Goal but still, 43 per cent children in Pakistan are stunted. Malnutrition is another reason of huge number of under five child deaths is Pakistan”.

These awards will not only encourage the journalists to create more content on the issues mentioned above but will also create a buzz in the media about major issues concerning health and survival of children of Pakistan. Social media including Twitter and Facebook is also among the important tiers to highlight the health issues.

I got the opportunity to talk to one of the award recipients under the health category Mr. Hanif Samoon. “I am happy to receive the award and it feels like that the work that I am doing is acknowledged which gives me a great level of satisfaction”. Mr. Hanif Samoon has been writing for different English dailies since 1996 currently he is associated with Dawn Media Group in Badin a rural district of Sindh.

Health reporting, like other issues of public interest, in Pakistan is a neglected field. It is certainly not a priority with media outlets being too focused on politics and conflict. There are few journalists in Pakistan who specifically report on the health issues mainly because there is lack of information, understanding and appreciation of health issues as a subject.  So it’s honor in recognizing the efforts made by the journalists to strengthen health system as they are the real advocates of change.

The event got the coverage in print and electronic media.