The Transforming Health Education in Tanzania Consortium under the Health-Professional Education Partnership Initiative program (HEPI-THET) on Monday, November 25, 2019, conducted a one day workshop aimed at engaging the media, with a broader aim of strengthening journalists’ story-telling and pitching skills on the need for competency-based medical training in Tanzania and other issues related to health professions in general.
THET is a five-year project (2018-2023) led by MUHAS, funded by Fogarty under Health-Professional Education Partnership Initiative (HEPI) program. The project will implement innovative approaches to enhance the quality of medical and nursing education and research focusing especially on HIV/AIDS.
Among other things, HEPI-THET aims at improving communication to reach out to main stakeholders including tracking of graduates and thus establish and sustain a robust database for the graduates in the health sector in Tanzania.
Speaking during the opening of the workshop, the Principal Investigator of THET, Prof Gideon Kwesigabo said the media is an important component in the project as a vehicle for reaching the community and advocating workable approaches to tackling Tanzania’s health system challenges. Prof Kwesigabo noted that for a long time, the training of health professionals in Tanzania required a major shift in paradigm, as demonstrated by the investment under THET and this was worth reporting about.
“There is much to tell about THET and the milestones that Tanzania has attained as it strives to develop its health professionals’ training system. The harmonized curricular we are coming up with is a benchmark through which nurses, doctors, and all health professionals will be evaluated by using minimum standards which have been proposed by stakeholders through the various consultative meetings that THET has been holding,’’ he said.
A group of 10 journalists from Dar es Salaam-based media houses were involved in the pitching exercise to produce compelling and publishable health stories that they would pitch to their editors. The workshop involved three facilitators from Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences(MUHAS) and MedicoPRESS and three participants from departments of CUHAS, KMCollege and MUHAS’ Public Relations Officer.
The Coordinator of THET, Dr. Nathanael Sirili was upbeat that the engagement of the media was a pragmatic step towards meeting Aim Three of THET, which entails sensitization to ensure the relevance of education and research undertaken by working closely with stakeholders to optimize efforts to meet the human resources for health needs of the country, especially related to HIV/AIDS.
“While there is a need for communication amongst stakeholders, it is very important to reach to the communities and media is the best tool to achieve that goal,’’ he said as he facilitated the workshop involving journalists; who were selected depending on their commitment to reporting healthcare issues in Tanzania, as their main beat at the newsroom.
A representative from the Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences (Cuhas), Ms. Mariam Whaluku said the need to invest in better quality graduates is of paramount importance now that there is a significant increase in the number of health professionals who are graduating from health universities across the country.
“The coming of THET means that universities producing graduates in the health field will be able to improve the quality professionals entering the market. There is no better time except now to start investing in having better curricular and systems of grading the quality of these graduates,’’ said Ms. Whalulu who is also an administrator at the admissions officer of Cuhas.
For his part, a representative from KCMCollege, Ahazi Kulanga said there is still a high demand for health personnel in the health sector but it is worthwhile to invest in ensuring that graduates who are produced to fill up the market, have the requisite qualities to serve the communities well. “When you have a health system where health workers are connecting well with the community, that’s a step in the right direction. We believe that working with the media will help health workers connect with the communities. There is much in the health sector and especially in THET that is still unreported,’’ he said.
The journalists who participated in the workshop were from both electronic and print media but mainly included print. The media houses included The Citizen, Mwananchi, Habari Leo, Jamvi la Habari, TV-E, The Guardian, Daily News, and Tanzania Daima.
During the pitching session, the facilitators and the journalists agreed on key aspects for coverage of THET in all aspects of health, education, technology, policy, financing, Sustainable Development Goals, and research.
The media trainer from MedicoPRESS, Dr. Syriacus Buguzi, emphasized that journalists can excel in their profession if they focused on producing evidence-based stories, not only about THET but also in their day to day reporting on science. “When one speaks about THET, one might think it’s just about health and education. In a journalistic sense, the angles to cover the story can range from technology to politics, research, innovation, and sustainable development. Ensure that you have a solution in mind when writing such stories. Solutions-based stories can empower the society,’’ he explained.