Twenty journalists from newsrooms across Africa this week received training on effective use of civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) data in public health journalism at the on-going fifth conference of African ministers responsible for CRVS.
The training was provided by the Bloomberg Data for Health Initiative and Vital Strategies, in collaboration with the Africa Programme on Accelerated Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (APAI-CRVS) team, among them the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
“We had 20 journalists representing five countries across the Africa region who participated in this two-day training program that focused on the importance of functional national CRVS systems and the rich stories that can emerge from CRVS data for public engagement and accountability for national development,” said James Mwanza of the Bloomberg Data for Health Initiative and Vital Strategies.
The journalists, he said, gained skills in best practices for including accurate and transparent data in stories, with a particular focus on building analytical skills that are most relevant to their work as journalists.
William Muhwava, Chief of the Demographic and Social Statistics Section of the ECA’s African Centre for Statistics, said the training was essential to help journalists in their reporting especially as data becomes more prevalent and accessible.
“Statistics can be challenging for anyone and such training helps bring out the best in our journalists on the continent as they report on public health challenges facing our communities from community, national, and even global levels,” he said.
Mr. Muhwava said the training will also help the journalists and their newsrooms to understand more and assess the validity of various types of health data they receive or unearth and communicate it clearly and accurately.
The conference provided an opportunity for the journalists to delve into CRVS related topics that they will be developing into data stories once they return to their newsrooms.
The journalists had the opportunity to participate in a press conference with ministers and senior United Nations officials on CRVS and had interviews with experts in the Fifth Conference of African Ministers Responsible for Civil Registration (COM5) and Government representatives from their home countries and across the continent.
The training provided a detailed overview of CRVS in terms of what it is and why it is important. It helped the select group of journalists to build and improve skills related to data use in reporting. Topics covered included primary sources of public health data; common data related terms and concepts; basic methods for analysing, interpreting, and visualizing public health data; and effective tactics for interviewing public health experts about data-rich topics.