Health Communications

I’m a strong believer in research translation. I’ve worked with scientists, government officials and implementers across a wide range of disciplines to communicate their work – including writing op-eds for a general audience and thinking through communications and dissemination strategies.

I recently worked with one nonprofit to turn an op-ed intro from this:

“In 2014, we released a report on the barriers that prevented pregnant women and girls accessing timely antenatal care in South Africa. Four years on, a new review of maternal mortality in the country has found that many of these barriers remain. Antenatal care is crucial to any pregnant woman because it screens for complications that may develop during pregnancy which, left untreated, could put the mother and baby in danger. Our 2014 report was based on research in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, highlighted that too many women and girls were dying needlessly in South Africa during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth. Some things have improved since then. Currently, the South African government recommends that women and girls begin their antenatal care visits from 14 weeks into their pregnancies but most only seek antenatal care after 20 weeks. Appointments are free of charge and, since April 2017, the government increased the number of appointments from four to eight. Nearly all women receive at least one visit, and the number of maternal deaths has reduced significantly since 2014.”

Into this:

“Busisiwe lives in an isolated homestead in rural KwaZulu-Natal. When we met her and her baby daughter and family more than five years ago, they were — like many South Africans — surviving on social grants. This despite the fact that Busisiwe, as we called her and who was then 18, had not been able to access one for her daughter. She told our researchers that she felt too ashamed as a young mother to face the civil servants at the payment office. When she was four months pregnant, Busisiwe went to the antenatal clinic because she wanted to know whether she was HIV positive so that, if she was, she could get the antiretroviral medication needed to prevent transmission of the virus to her baby. She walked to the clinic, a journey that takes between 60 and 90 minutes each way. When she arrived, healthcare workers insulted her publicly. “They started to shout: ‘Why are you pregnant? You are so young,’” she remembered. “Every time [I went] they were shouting, saying: ‘Your mother sent you to school and you are going to look [at] boys?’” Frightened, Busisiwe left the clinic without being screened for HIV.”

I worked with the organisation to use material they had already produced to help the non-profit tell a better story about what they do and what the work meant. After this opinion was published, a smaller start-up organisation received funding to help tackle some of the issues the op-ed highlighted.

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