NCDC, AFENET AND BREAKTHROUGH ACTION-NIGERIA COMMENCE MEDIA-EPIDEMIOLOGY, INFODEMIOLOGY AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR CHANGE
(MEDIA-EIS) FELLOWSHIP IN NIGERIA.
At the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, predictive models pointed to stark outcomes for Africa. Compounded by the verse spectrum of diseases on the continent and the fragile health care facilities and services, COVID-19 was expected to devastate the continent.
WHO stated in a post on 07 May 2020: The predicted number of cases that would require hospitalization would overwhelm the available medical capacity in much of Africa. There would be an estimated 3.6 million–5.5 million COVID-19 hospitalizations, of which 82,000–167,000 would be severe cases requiring oxygen, and 52,000–107,000 would be critical cases requiring breathing support. Such a huge number of patients in hospitals would severely strain the health capacities of countries”.However, the dire predictions didn’t come to pass.
Africa’s greatest threat turned out not to be the disease but rather an unprecedented level of resistance and reluctance to practice safety measures proscribed by health authorities. Equally, hesitancy to accept the COVID-19 vaccine when it was eventually available threatened the control and containment of the plague.
On the wings of social media, misinformation and disinformation was rife, permeating minds and forging behaviors that were inimical to desired health outcomes,
In the later days of the pandemic, AFENET began looking at a communication solution to counter misinformation and disinformation and also build resilience against same. A process that led to a collaboration between AFENET, Breakthrough Action Nigeria (led by by John Hopkins Center for Communication Programs) and the Nigeria Center for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC). The collaboration would go on to develop a capacity-building intervention called the Media Epidemiology, Infodemiology and Social Behaviour Change/Risk Communication Fellowship (MEDIA-EIS).
Introduction to Media-EIS
The Media-EIS Program is a unique training program aimed at building the capacity of health media practitioners on Basic Epidemiology, Infodemic Management and Social and behaviour Change (SBC)/Risk Communication. It focuses on capacity development for media experts from the print, radio, television and online platforms, who will become another critical layer of public health workforce in the public health communication space.
The media largely drives the information eco-system. The lack of understanding of the science of public health (epidemiology) and behavioural science, coupled with weaponized misinformation and disinformation, incapacitates well-meaning media organizations and experts from accurately adequately educating and accurately informing the public.
Media-EIS,, has been developed to bridge the capacity gap of the media. It is designed to develop a network of health-focused media and communication experts across the continent that will set the agenda for public health communication and serve as a filter to infodemics thereby protecting health truths and facts for more compliance to safety behaviours from the public.
The Media-EIS is divided into three tracks for three months per track. The fellowship will commence with the epidemiology track facilitated by AFENET, followed by inforDemics by NCDC while BA-N anchors the Social and Behavior Change/Risk Communication.
Cohort 1 Commencement
The maiden Cohort of the Media-EIS commenced training on 20 November 2023. An Opening ceremony was held to mark the commencement.
Present at the event was the Director General of the NCDC Dr IfedayoAdetifawho stressed the importance on the capacity-building Fellowship to the detection, prevention and response to health events in the country. The DG NCDC said, “It is important to be quick but important to push out correct information, because any misconception could be disastrous,”
He charged the Fellows to take the training seriously to gain a more in-depth understanding of the basic science of public health and be grounded in scientific communication. He further charged the Fellows to bridge the gap between science, government and the public for better health outcomes.
Dr. Ndadilnasiya Endie Waziri, on behalf of the AFENET Regional Coordinator, welcomed the participants to AFENET and the Media-EIS. She stated,” it is important to build capacity of the media in terms of epidemiology, how to communicate better when there is an outbreak of disease and the right thing to say and when best to keep quiet. We are hoping that as your capacity is built, we are going to see changes in health reporting and programming”
The commencement was also graced by representatives from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Federal Ministry of Environment, Africa CDC and faculty members from AFENET, Breakthrough Action Nigeria and the NCDC.
Thirty Fellows were selected for the Fellowship after a thorough selection process. They will undergo a training program comprising didactic sessions, fieldwork, mentorship and peer review. The cluster one track is Basic Epidemiology facilitated by AFENET.
Dr. Muhammad Shakir Balogun, the Resident Advisor of the Nigeria Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (NFELTP) led the epidemiology section with other field epidemiologists from AFENET and the Federal Ministry of Health, NCDC and Federal Ministry of Agriculture delivered lectures on basic epidemiology. Some topics covered include Introduction to Epidemiology, Key Terms &Concepts in Epidemiology, Public HealthSurveillance, Health data: analysis, interpretation, and display, EpidemiologicStudies, One Health Concept, etc.
Group work, a field trip to the National Reference Laboratory, Abuja, among other under-learning and fun activities, were conducted.
The Fellows-in-training will now commence fieldwork experience where they will learn alongside Rapid Response teams in their respective states.
NWOKOCHA SMITH C @NWOKOCHASMITHC
Proud Fellow of the Media EIS Fellowship Pioneer Cohort. I have developed the capacity to report right and now I can use some of the public health terms professionally. It’s been an awesome experience
AMB KHADIJA BAWAS @AmbKhadijaBawas
As a Media EIS fellow, I have gained knowledge about reporting on public health sectors, particularly epidemiology. I am excited for the next parts of the fellowship, which will focus on infodemiology and social and behaviour change/risk comm