Five journalist workshops and one media conference on Polio Vaccination, Lessons From the Polio Campaign in Ukraine and Other Health Issues of Public Concern were held in Kyiv, Cherkasy, Odessa, and Svyatohirsk (Donetsk region), Ukraine, between January and July 2016. The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) organised this initiative based on its belief that the press had failed to provide effective and truthful coverage in the case of polio vaccination in Ukraine; the hope was to support better media coverage in the face of similar public health issues.
BBG's Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalist trainers worked with experts in the fields of medicine and vaccination from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Ukraine Ministry of Health, and Rotary-Ukraine to build the capacity of Ukrainian journalists to ethically and effectively report on polio issues, in particular, and health issues of public concern, in general. The coursework included sessions on role of the media in comprehensive response to polio outbreak, ethical health reporting, use of new media tools and social networks for health crisis communication, and verification of information. More then 70 journalists from the media organisations across Ukraine participated in the training activities, which were underwritten by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For example, on the first day, 15 journalists selected by the National Television Company of Ukraine (NTU) from different regions of Ukraine had an opportunity to gain theoretical and practical knowledge in medical journalism. The goal was to analyse problems that occurred during polio campaign coverage in Ukraine and demonstrate effective and ineffective approaches of covering health issues and dangerous disease outbreaks, using the example of American mass media. Team leader of the Ukrainian Service of VOA, Zorislav Baydyuk, led the first part of the discussion. Using an example of reporting on Ebola cases in the United States (US) in 2014, Zorislav demonstrated how politics and unprofessionalism of the media could create a public panic. There were only 4 cases of Ebola documented in the US; however, according to Baydyuk, inappropriate press coverage of Ebola in the US and involvement of politicians created unreasonable public fear. With this example, Ukrainian journalists have learned not to allow politicians to influence their reporting on medical subjects unless those politicians are directly responsible for medical policies.
Training participants produced more than 80 reports on polio vaccination for national and local radio and television broadcast. Video reports produced by Conference participants, winners of the CDC stipend for polio reporting, were posted to the Rotary-Ukraine website #StopPolio.
In the pre-training survey, only 10% of respondents estimated their knowledge of polio related issues as "good". After the training, 96% of participants said that their knowledge of polio and polio vaccination was "good" or "very good".
BBG's mission is to inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. To that end, BBG oversees a global network of over 90 transmitting sites delivering high frequency, medium wave (AM), FM, and TV broadcasts, and currently leases broadcast time on 15 transmitting facilities in 14 countries, as well as on many FM and TV stations around the world. BBG also provides anti-censorship support to overcome efforts by other governments to jam BBG broadcasts on radio, television, and the internet.
"Health Reporting and Lessons from the Polio Campaign in Ukraine", and BBG website, both accessed on December 14 2016.