Data Impact’s complementary communications initiatives train ministry of health officials and journalists in the effective use of data in public health communication. Effective Use of Data in Public Health Reporting was developed to create an in-country demand for accurate, accessible and transparent data. Guided by the vision that a cadre of journalists, trained in the value of using data in their work, would be more likely to request accurate and timely data from their governments, this initiative builds skills and imparts practical knowledge to working journalists.

The 3-day workshop builds the data use skills of journalists to use data in their public health reporting and in public health communication. The training topics cover common data related terms and concepts; primary sources of public health data; basic methods for analyzing, interpreting, and visualizing public health data; and effective tactics for interviewing public health experts about data-rich topics. As part of the training journalists are mentored to develop a data rich story for publication.

Our workshop Conveying Health Information to Media and Colleagues increases the capacity of ministry staff to use data in their internal and external communications work, specifically with the media and the public. Health communication is an essential element of an active health data culture and a fundamental responsibility of a robust ministry of health (MOH). Sharing information about the health status of a country or a community with a variety of audiences is a key function of MOH Communication staff. Health information can be urgent, confusing, or alarming and needs to be disseminated strategically to the relevant target audiences. Consistent, accurate and clear communication is a vital tool for managing an agency’s health messaging: In its absence, inaccurate information tends to fill the void.

Vital Strategies Communications Training for Health Communication Professionals trains MOH communication staff in strategies for disseminating health information. Among other things, participants learn about key national and international data sources, how to access data within their own ministries, when to liaise with relevant experts, how to manage negative health information, how to identify target audiences, how to craft health messages that share data and promote behavior change and how to promote key messages. At the conclusion of the hands-on program participants will be able to translate various health data into relevant and relatable communications (print/radio/tv/online/tweets) for a variety of audiences. The synergy created by journalists requesting accurate information and a ministry trained and capacitated to share data encourages a culture of accountability and reinforces the work that Data Impact is undertaking to increase availability and use of good data in target countries.