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The Strategic Media Engagement for Advocacy On Diabetes and Other NCDS; a landmark in East Africa

The Strategic Media Engagement for Advocacy On Diabetes and Other NCDS; a landmark in East Africa

After three years of implementation, the Strategic Media Engagement for Advocacy On Diabetes and Other Non-Communicable Disease in East Africa comes to an end with visible impact. Initiated in 2019, the project aimed at increasing media awareness and government action on NCDs among East African Countries including Burundi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Zanzibar.

Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) pose the fastest-growing disease burden and a development challenge in East Africa in the coming decades. While mortality due to infectious diseases decreased by 10% from 2000 to 2012, the mortality due to NCDs rose from 21% in 2000 to 30% in 2012. The World Health Organization (WHO) projects that by 2030, NCDs will overtake infectious diseases as the main cause of death (WHO, 2015 progress monitor) in Sub-Saharan Africa. Despite this worrying situation, governments in East Africa have been slow in their responses to make NCDs a priority in health and development planning as well as putting in place interventions on prevention, awareness, care and control systems.

Advocacy and awareness creation on NCDs in East Africa

Although the advocacy role towards prevention, management and control of NCDs has gained momentum over the past decades, much work is still needed to curb the burden of NCDs in the region. Generally, NCD advocacy and awareness creation have been left largely to the medical practitioners and a small emerging cadre of advocates. A challenge here is that the medical professionals, who are the main advocates, are not well-equipped to communicate the issues and the science behind NCDs in everyday language. The discourses around diabetes and other NCDs have remained largely technical; not emotionally compelling for advocacy and are unattractive for mass communication.

Media for advocacy

Even though media has not been fully utilized in relation to NCD scourge in East Africa, it has positioned itself as the emerging powerful tool in enhancing advocacy and driving information to a larger population in a variety of accessible ways (Oronje et al, 2011).  Media is an important way to reach, public actors, opinion leaders and the general audience. It allows organizations to disseminate messages, shape public opinion, create awareness and advocate for developmental programs.  From a societal perspective, media supports and promotes good governance through three key roles: watchdog, agenda setting and civic forums. In this 21st century there is no better tool for engaging in civic activities than social media. With the majority population especially the youth mastering the art of online engagements, social media is a very powerful tool when engaging in bigger campaigns, awareness creation, casing government actions

The Strategic Media Engagement for Advocacy on Diabetes and Other Non-Communicable Diseases was therefore geared towards increasing media awareness and government action on NCDs in East Africa through

  1. Establishing partnership with at least 4 media houses (TV, print, radio) in each East African country which have demonstrated a commitment to provide regular, accurate information on NCDs in collaboration with member NCD Alliances
  2. Increasing capacity and interest of the media to provide more coverage on NCDs, on the one hand, and increasing the capacity of NCD practitioners and advocates to communicate effectively to decision-makers and the public using media.
  3. Increasing by at least 30% the volume of media coverage on NCDs through a collaborative process of developing and disseminating public-interest evidence-based content and compelling humanistic stories; and use of diversified channels of communication.

What has been achieved so far?

 The project has built a capacity of 165 journalists; increased by 38% of media coverage on NCDs in East Africa. In addition, a network of 150 journalists to cover and report on NCDs in the region has been developed, enhanced knowledge journalists’ knowledge on Diabetes and other NCDs; strengthened relationships between media and NCDs advocates and experts; initiated new media programs specifically, on NCDs; highlighted local languages as key tools in advocacy; built comprehensive and cohesive communication strategies and enhanced media as a critical platform for raising the voices of PLWNCDs.

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