Is the Media ignoring Public Health?

Public health seems to be the last priority of media. Despite the importance of public health initiatives , media does not focus upon it as it does on health tragedies. A good case in point was the AMRI Hospital fire which was covered by the media.

Recently India went 11 months without a single new case of polio being declared. this was a hall mark achievement and a crowning success of the pulse polio initiative. But this went unreported.

Now the public health infrastructure has started focusing on eradicating Measles, but again the media has chosen to ignore it.

A similar analogy can be found in the great job being done by the NHS in the UK. Their public health and community dental programs are one of the best in the world. But again the British media often chooses to ignore it rather focusing on the changes and the mismanagement in NHS.

So clearly media is more focused upon reporting a health initiative gone wrong rather than focus on the initiatives that are doing well.

Why is that?

For one I think Media revenues are driven by advertising, which in turn depends on ratings. Ratings are generated by viewership and generally people like to watch sensational news. SO bad news sells while good news may not have the same impact.

A good analogy can be the coverage of the Hooch tragedy in West Bengal. Which has been widely covered by the media but not the success of the pulse polio program.

Secondly to attract audience there need to be some celebrities that focus on some public health initiatives. A good example was Indian super star Amitabh Bachchan who led the pulse polio campaign in India.

Similarly Lance Armstrong has led the campaign against Cancer and Michael J Fox for Parkinson’s disease.

But having celebrities can back fire as most of them have their own agenda’s and this might seriously hamper the message.

Third option could be to develop local champions against a particular disease or health condition. People are more likely to listen to their local community champions rather than some celebrity sitting far away. These champions would make the message more genuine and hence will be able to attract attention to the issue.

In conclusion media would cover public health if and only if it helps them boosts their ratings. Good options are to make the story more sell-able by focusing on the local issues and its impact. this would be definitely covered by the local media.

For national media I think associating public health initiatives with celebrities is the best option. But one has to be careful of the true intention of the celebrity.

Finally local issues even in public health are best pushed by local champions and then it becomes a public interest story.

In conclusion, the media is made up people from the same society that we will live. As long as they don’t feel for the issue, it is difficult for them to cover the issue.

Dr. Vikram Venkateswaran

Management Thinker, Marketer, Healthcare Professional Communicator and Ideation exponent

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Sumeet Kad

    Well comprised. I hope our media covers more such issues that brings positivity in the minds of general population and encourages them for a better and healthy life.Media needs to play a huge role in this and has to overcome its profit achieving approach for this cause.

  2. Dr Vikram

    Thank you Sumeet. I think the focus on ratings is driving media to ignoring key issues like public health. The key is get more activism around public health issues.

  3. Ashwini

    These days Media highlights things of least importance and ignore news which has to be telecast. They need to set their priorities right. To stay ahead of the competition, they resort to cheap gimmicks to promote their channel. I do not say they fail to report standard news, I just wish they set their priorities right!

  4. Well noted Doc! As a matter of fact media has come a long way from being a communication/awareness channel to a well established business industry as it is today. In now time a Poonam Panday shedding her clothes, or a Veena Malik gone missing becomes a breaking news as it’s got the MQ (Masala Quotient) in it which increases the TRP & so more serious issues like health awareness quite conveniently get ignored.Somewhere we the people are the real cause of this. News with any Marketing Sex into it sells like hot cakes & so that’s what the media folks would give, in this cut throat competitive world by keeping values, ethics and responsibilities at the bay.Speaking on the brighter side (just to prove i’m not a pessimist) today one gets to see & hear the news via a whole new revolution to the way we communicate – The Social Media! Whether it’s the news of the Jasmine Revolution, News of Osama being killed or the Anna Hazare campaign.. the news finds you today! The World of media is no longer limited to the journalists.. every individual is a messenger of news.To conclude I can only say that its really sad that the Media is not doing its share of work to increase awareness on serious issues, but then today there are more alternatives available to increase an awareness on any given issue.Cheers,@vrlthaker@thesocialppl

  5. Dr Vikram

    Hi AshwiniI agree that media has mis-placed priorities. If we see the trend of late, media has resorted to cheap gimmicks in this rush to make the TRP ratings… I do hope things change…

  6. Dr Vikram

    Hi ViralGood point and Social Media is challenging main stream media. There is no doubt in my mind that the current scenario will change. Social media will soon replace newspapers and soon will put pressure on mainstream media. A good example of this blog post creating awareness on Public Health is a good example how Social media can be used for activism…

  7. Sujatha Sathya

    11 months & not a case of polio!! that’s incredible & shows what a stupendous success the pulse polio campaign has been. there really is very little we cant achieve if we set our minds to it.its sad media doesn’t do its due here & only clamors after “bad news”

  8. Dr Vikram

    Yes Sujuatha and that is the sad truth. there are incredible Public Health stories in India, but unfortunately they don’t get highlighted. A good example was this pulse Polio campaign. Another example is that the healthcare index in Kerala is almost the same as that of New York State. Goa and Delhi are not far behind…

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