Journalists from six African countries received various prizes at the 2022 Emerging Health Technologies (EHTs) Media Award of Excellence at a virtual ceremony held on 9 March 2023. The Grand Prize winner was Janet Ogundepo for her piece on artificial intelligence–powered spinal cord implants published in Nigeria’s Punch Newspapers. The EHTs Media Award was initiated in October 2022 by the Platform for Dialogue and Action of Health Technologies in Africa (Health Tech Platform) – a project of the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP).
Speaking on Janet Ogundepo’s winning entry at the award ceremony, the Project Director of the Health Tech Platform, Professor Richard Mukabana, said that the entry encapsulated what journalism should be reporting at the frontiers of emerging science and technology being developed for use in Africa. “The story was rooted in engaging the reader to understand the basics of science and the potential of the technology to give hope in curing infirmities. It also revealed the people behind the technologies – science is fundamentally about human beings understanding and transforming our world to make it a place worth living,” Professor Mukabana said.
Other winners of the prestigious award, aimed at improving the quality and quantity of media coverage of EHTs to increase the public’s understanding of complex technologies, include:
- Ojoma Akor – Winner, Print Category, for the piece on how technological innovation is reducing delays in breast cancer screening and saving lives.
- Angela Oketch and Hellen Shikanda – Runner-Up, Print Category, for the co-written piece which looks into the progress in developing the first-ever mRNA-based HIV vaccine.
- Tijani Abdulkabeer – Winner, Online Category, for the piece on how artificial intelligence can help drive up blood donations.
- Afsétou Sawadogo – Runner-Up, Online Category, for the piece which looks into how a digital diagnostic tool is supporting the reduction of infant mortality.
- Namale Hajara Shahista – Winner, Radio Category, on how telemedicine is providing much-needed healthcare services to patients in Uganda.
- Romain Kossi Dekadjevi – Runner-Up, Radio Category, on how e-health is supporting the months-long tuberculosis treatment in Benin.
- Vumani Mkhize – Winner, TV Category, explores how cutting-edge robotic technology is used in South Africa, from precision surgery to in-patient care.
- Emily Chebet – Runner-Up, TV Category, takes the viewer through the work at an institute in Kenya finding solutions to antimicrobial resistance.
The judges of the inaugural EHTs Media Award were present at the ceremony to announce the winners of the other categories. Hamadou Tidiane Sy, a Senegalese journalist, announced the Print Category awardees, noting that “when we are talking about in-depth, well-written, and evidence-backed stories, these were the stories.”
Rosalia Omungo, a Kenyan journalist, while presenting the award to the winner of the Online Category remarked “It is a simple, well-told story. The reporter goes out of his way to demonstrate how technology works. He uses statistics and interviews to bring out the evidence of how the technology works.”
While announcing the winners of the Radio category, physician and public health researcher Joannie Bewa said, “the two entries focused on e-health innovation and backed it up with data.”
Kenyan scientist Doris Wangari, announcing the TV Category awardees, reflected that the “TV category is essential as it’s still one of the modern means of mass communication and serves to inform a wide range of the general public; and nowadays you find that you can access the TV from wherever you are.”
The EHTs Media Award aims to support quality science journalism in Africa, especially on emerging technologies that have the potential to address Africa’s pressing health challenges. Some of these technologies have been prioritised by the African Union, such as gene editing, including gene drives for malaria control and elimination, the use of drones, microgrids, artificial intelligence, and next-generation medicine. These technologies are at varying levels of development. Nevertheless, there is a need for public awareness and local ownership of these technologies to ensure they are adapted to the needs of Africans. This includes having African institutions involved in their research and development, and African policymakers providing the right regulatory frameworks to guide their development, testing, and deployment if proven effective and safe.
Speaking on the importance of the EHTs Media Award, Dr Eliya Zulu, AFIDEP’s Executive Director underscored that the media is crucial in reaching the public and helping interpret evidence. Additionally, they play a critical role in countering misinformation and disinformation.
“AFIDEP, as an organisation that promotes evidence in decision-making, conducts this award to strengthen the capacity of the media to use evidence in analysing and reporting issues in the development of these technologies to the public, including the policymakers,” said Dr Eliya Zulu.
He further noted that the role of the media in translating evidence on emerging health technologies could contribute to accelerating their development, which, if well developed, could help address health challenges on the continent.
While launching the 2023 EHTs Media Award, Dr Rose Oronje, AFIDEP’s Director of Public Policy & Knowledge Translation and Head of Kenya Office, challenged journalists to critically examine emerging technologies and address the different issues affecting development or deployment. “We need to go beyond creating awareness to holding governments accountable in ensuring the necessary frameworks for the development or uptake, for those that are ready, of these technologies,” said Dr Rose Oronje.
Esther Nakkazi, science reporter and the founder of the Health Journalists Network in Uganda, who was the keynote speaker at the launch of the EHTs Media Award, encouraged journalists to apply for the next award noting, “Being an award-winning journalist is a great incentive in that it not only shows the quality of your work but also gives you a greater responsibility in creating awareness, training younger journalists, and holding governments accountable for supporting the development of emerging health technologies.”
The inaugural edition received over 100 entries from 21 African countries, showing the range of reporting on EHTs in Africa. AFIDEP is receiving entries for the 2023 EHTs Media Award, which is open till 15 September 2023. Visit www.healthtechafrica.org for the details.