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Reporting TB research effectively can challenge stigma

A new case study launched by Panos London shows that media coverage of tuberculosis (TB) in Zambia can be improved by bringing journalists and researchers together to tackle misconceptions about the disease.

The case study ‘Reporting health research: Connecting journalists and TB researchers in Zambia’, shares some of the outcomes and lessons learned from a joint initiative between Panos London’s Relay programme and TARGETS, a research programme consortium.

The initiative brought together journalists, editors and health researchers to discuss the barriers to reporting and promoting public debate on TB. This included stigma around TB transmission, lack of access for journalists to reliable information and limited support from editors for health stories. Health researchers then acted as expert advisors to journalists who produced a series of newspaper articles and radio programmes on both national and community radio.

Zambia has been reported as having the tenth highest TB incidence rate in the world (193 cases per 100,000 members of the population) and one of the highest rates of HIV infection in Africa, at 15 per cent according to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID 2009). Misconceptions about the disease transmission and the link between TB and HIV infection has fuelled social stigma which can make people reluctant to disclose their status and less likely to seek treatment.

Panos London Executive Director, Mark Wilson said:

“Evidence has shown that there is limited access to accurate information and knowledge about TB in Zambia. Media interventions can support accurate and informed reporting around TB that provides the missing links in knowledge and create debate on health issues. More importantly, informed and sensitive reporting can challenge misconceptions which can influence health behaviour positively and reduce the stigma associated with TB.”

Relay’s programme manager, Annie Hoban said:

“Our workshops revealed that there is mistrust and fear between journalists and researchers but they recognised that there is real value in each other’s expertise and it was mutually beneficial for them to work together.”

“There have already been great outcomes through this initiative. Four articles and five radio programmes were produced as a result, reaching more than 500,000 people combined. This case study shows a great deal can be achieved when journalists and researchers work together, and it’s an approach which can be applied to public health reporting in general.”

‘Reporting health research: Connecting journalists and TB researchers in Zambia’, is available to download here:

For more information contact Tia Jeewa:

Notes to editors:

  • Panos London’s Relay programme works in developing countries to provide information, broker relationships, and offer skills-building to research organisations and the media; and is implemented in partnership with other Panos Institutes from the worldwide Panos Network. For more information see
  • The Relay programme is supported by the Department for International Development (DFID), the Wellcome Trust and the International Development Research Center (IDRC).

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