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Healthcare communications in a pandemic

The COVID-19 crisis is one arguably unparalleled in living memory. The comparison point of many is the so-called ‘Spanish’ flu pandemic of the early 20th century. In a time of global health crisis, there is a need for effective delivery in the area of healthcare communications – and trust is crucial. This formed the crux of a webinar co-hosted by Health Issues India and leading communications agency SPAG Asia earlier this week.

The webinar – “Battling the Infodemic amid a Pandemic” – was moderated by Iknoor Kaur. It featured Chitra Subramaniam, founder, CSD Consulting; Aman Gupta, co-founder and managing partner, SPAG; and Mark Chataway, director, Hyderus Teoronta, co-founder, Baird’s CMC and founder, Health Issues India.

“Politicisation of the epidemic is a worrisome sign across the world,” said Chataway. He added that “those who invested in healthcare journalism have excelled in their reportage.”

In the field of healthcare communications, investing in health journalism seems to be the need of the hour. “Disinformation or misinformation by journalists should not be considered as intentional,” said Subramaniam. “Media houses need to invest in healthcare journalism for informed narrative.” Chataway concurred and expressed that “from now on we will see more investment in healthcare journalism as the repercussions of this pandemic are here to stay for a couple of years.” 

Gupta emphasised that “trust is pertinent in times of a pandemic. Authenticity of information available online needs to be checked…investment…is crucial and I see that increasing now.” 

For journalists, Subramaniam said that the “method of storytelling needs to change, and [the] right questions need to be asked to not be a press release journalist.” A sentiment expressed among the panellists was that health journalism is uncharted territory for many mainstream journalists. This exerts an impact upon how storytelling is conducted and how stories are handled. Gupta added that “with a better understanding of the [health] sector, journalists need to ask the right question to the right experts. Otherwise you will only get a good copy but not [the] right information.” 

There is a heightened urgency for health journalism to become the norm, rather than the exception as we are seeing now. This brand of healthcare communications “need to grow beyond press releases, and it can only happen if the media professionals are well informed about health communications” according to Subramaniam. “Media houses need health desks.”

Watch the full video here.

Read more from the Health Issues India press office here. 

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