Nearly 2.5% of people in the world is estimated to be infected with Hepatitis C – that’s a whopping 150 million people. And it’s more than most other infectious diseases, yet many people know little to nothing about the disease.
In addition to limited awareness of a disease that kills millions yearly, Hepatitis C receives narrow media coverage.
But for reporters to be able to cover the disease, properly, journalists need to know more about the virus and the disease. What are the different genotypes? Which new medications are there? Why is the disease burden so high around the world?
To mark World Hepatitis Day, the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) is launching a new online portal to educate and support journalists who are covering viral hepatitis all over the world. The portal should give reporters the appropriate tools, data sets and education to accurately cover the killer virus.
To produce this education plan, a steering committee of science journalists from around the world came together with experts, researchers, clinicians and patient advocacy groups representatives to identify the most important topics to cover; ranging from the global disease burden and its risks to health policy and the rapidly evolving hepatitis treatment landscape. I was part of this committee which met twice, then worked together online, to build the training programme.
The material is packaged into modules made available freely online, with each covering hepatitis C from a specific angle. Together they offer journalists different ways to tell the hepatitis C story.
Hepatitis C has been around for so long that it suffers from the same predicament that a condition like HIV/AIDS does: people feel it’s an old story that they don’t know how to keep telling.
But there is so much happening in the hepatitis C landscape to make the story both very fresh and very important. Through this portal, journalists will find tips on how to address said story, in a way that suits their community.
The portal’s steering committee worked on coming up with fresh angles and the portal is expected, still, to help journalists tie loose threads; for example, reporters on the virus should be able to explore questions related to drug policy, commercial use of hepatitis C drugs, accessibility and reach.
The portal also offers a database of experts, policymakers, researchers, clinicians and patient advocacy groups from around the world, with contact information readily available to all visitors of the portal. The experts speak different languages to suit the needs of journalists globally.
The second part of the programme will see the WFSJ use the material online to host face-to-face workshops for journalists on the ground in countries and regions where hepatitis C is most prevalent, such as Egypt and Pakistan.
The workshops will be held in several regions and in different languages to make sure that as many people as possible can benefit from them. In addition to field workshops, the portal will offer a series of online webinars by award-winning science journalists.