Reporting Research

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Listen to our needs: Improving sexual and reproductive health reporting in Kenya

Successfully addressing sexual and reproductive health (SRH) issues is key to Kenya’s development. Kenya’s development strategy, Kenya Vision 2030, prioritises reduction in the incidence of HIV and AIDS, and improvement of maternal mortality rates.[1] Fertility, family planning, maternal health, HIV and AIDS, and gender-based violence are identified in The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2008 -09 as health priorities.[2] Community consultation has also identified a variety of SRH issues which are causes for concern, including rape, incest, abortion and lack of information on family planning.[3] Findings from research can provide vital information for the public and can inform health policy. The media can play a crucial role in reporting these findings. But how successfully are researchers communicating their findings and how well is the media reporting on these important issues?

Between January and December 2010, Panos Eastern Africa, Panos London and the African Population and Health Resource Center (APHRC), supported by the Wellcome Trust, implemented a project to assess media coverage of sexual and reproductive health issues in Kenya. The project comprised:

  • a scan and analysis of media coverage of SRH issues in 2009[4]
  • mapping stakeholders on SRH
  • two community consultations in the Nairobi urban slum communities of Korogocho and Viwandani
  • a training session for science journalists and communication staff on reporting research as part of the ‘Research to policy and action: Communicating evidence to effect change’  workshop
  • a multi-stakeholder forum to discuss results and make recommendations.

The main achievements were:

1) Community consultations revealed mismatch between media coverage and people’s priorities

The community consultations were a new feature in this project, as Relay’s work typically focuses predominantly on the media-research interface. Although the consultations were only carried out in two slum communities in Nairobi, they nonetheless provided invaluable insights into the vast differences between the priorities and issues vis-a-vis what is covered in the media and what informants from research, media and civil society put forward as key issues. This scant coverage of issues such as male SRH, abortion, adolescent pregnancies that were revealed in the media scan was also echoed in the two community consultation reports. The participants cited poor contraceptive use, rape, early child sex, incest, prostitution and abortion as critical issues – none of which were represented in the media content scanned. The community consultations and reports were carried out by the APHRC in Viwandani and Korogocho.

2) Media Coverage – Journalist wins award for research-informed article on SRH issues in Nairobi slums

A key result of this project was the subsequent media coverage on SRH issues. A full list of the coverage resulting from the project can be found in Annex D. Specifically, journalists that attended the community consultation took the participants views on board and two news stories arose as a direct result of the discussion on SRH at the community consultations. One journalist won a health reporting award for his article on SRH issues in Nairobi slums (see Annex E for the coverage of the award and F for the article)

3) Communicating SRH Research training at the ‘Research to policy and action workshop’

The media scan, informant interviews and community consultations revealed journalists lacked knowledge of SRH issues and research and researchers lacked communication skills. To address these knowledge gaps, APHRC, Panos Eastern Africa and Panos London organised a training workshop in Nairobi, Kenya.

The training dovetailed with the ‘Research to Policy and Action Workshop’ event which included participants from the Guttmacher Institute, LSHTM, IDRC and KIPPRA, and the Executive Director of APHRC.  It helped to raise the profile of the project, importance of communication and media engagement while also providing practical training.  PEA’s wealth of experience in research communication and training of media and communication staff was invaluable to the success of this event.

4) Creating new platforms between media and researchers to make recommendations on improving SRH coverage

The multi-stakeholder event, according to partners in Kenya, was the biggest highlight of the project. APHRC successfully brought together several influential stakeholders for the first time from civil society, media, community representatives, policy makers, journalist trainers, researchers. As a result of the wide range of stakeholders (see Annex G), productive discussions took place to identify recommendations to improve media coverage of SRH. These findings and recommendations have been compiled into a policy briefing to be disseminated to participants and other interested parties in Kenya and more widely.

5) Sharing project Learning and Findings –Policy Brief and International Conferences

The project attracted a lot of interest due to its activities and findings. Findings are being shared primarily through a policy briefing: Listen to our needs: Improving reporting on sexual and reproductive health in the Kenyan media (December 2010).

In addition, in November 2010, APHRC were invited to the African Leaders Forum in Yaounde, Cameroon, and shared project findings there.  We have also been invited to share learning from this

[1] Government of Kenya, Ministry of Planning and National Development, (2007) ‘Kenya Vision 2030’, p18

[2] Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) and ICF Macro (2010) Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2008-09. Calverton, Maryland: KNBS and ICF Macro, p4

[3] Community consultation reports from Nairobi urban slum communities Korogocho (23 June 2010) and Viwandani (30 July 2010) prepared by Jeremiah Kiwoi, facilitator

[4] The media scan was undertaken by consultants at Strategic Africa with a report prepared for Panos, June 2010.  Contact

Nurses weigh a baby in the maternity ward of the local hospital in Nakuru, Kenya/Sven Torfinn