IWMF Spotlight: Reporting on Healthcare Workers

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for accurate reporting about vaccines and immunizations was evident. Three years after the initial outbreak, this need is greater than ever. Journalists continue to be tasked with digesting complex public health information and evidence-based research, often with limited training or support.

Through IWMF’s Global Health Reporting Initiative (GHRI), journalists in Africa and Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) member countries underwent an online course led by public health experts on vaccines, public health and global health policy. After the course, journalists were awarded competitive reporting grants to support the production of in-depth, fact-based, high-quality reporting in their own communities.

We spoke to Afia Agyapomaa Ofosu about her reporting on migration, its effects on Ghana’s routine immunization, and how lack of planning resulted in a nationwide childhood vaccine shortage. Read her stories here and here on Modern Ghana.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

IWMF: When did you first start thinking about these topics? 

Afia Agyapomaa Ofosu: The idea came after [the Sabin Institute’s Vaccine Acceptance and Demand Director] Vince Blaser’s presentation on health workforce gaps in Africa. I discovered the topic from the revelations made by some health workers during the Global Health Reporting Initiative training program. At the time of working on the project, [entitled] “Uncontrolled migration threatens Ghana’s routine immunization,” the West African nation (Ghana) was facing shortage of childhood vaccines, so l used the opportunity to speak to health practitioners on the cause and solutions to curtail future occurrences.

What kind of research did you complete for this project? Can you explain your findings on Ghana’s working conditions for nurses? 

I used qualitative research (in-depth interviews) to unravel the mystery behind the rising emigration of the country’s health workforce. As highlighted in the article, working conditions of nurses in Ghana are extremely poor. For a health worker to say, “working in Ghana as a nurse is worthless,” it tells you how bad their conditions are. Meager salaries, inadequate logistics and the shortage of vaccines are some of the contributory factors to the poor working conditions of nurses in Ghana.

How can learning about these topics inform what comes next?

Health workers, especially preventive nurses, administer vaccines and educate the public on vaccines. If Ghana doesn’t sit up as a nation to strategize key measures to address the concerns of health professionals, one day there will be vaccines but the country won’t have the human capital to inoculate and educate citizens of the importance of vaccines. The factors [that contributed to this shortage] can inform policy-makers to make adequate plans toward the procurement of childhood immunization vaccines while concentrating on other pandemics.

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Puerto Rico After ‘Roe’

A protester holds up a sign that reads “MY BODY MY DECISION” during an abortion rights march, San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 28, 2022. (Carlos Edill Berríos Polanco/Latino Rebels)

When Susanne Ramirez de Arellano first saw Dr. Yari Vale at the Darlington Medical Associate clinic, she noticed it — a bulletproof vest underneath her blue scrubs. Ramirez de Arellano’s investigation in Latino Rebels, funded by Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice in the Americas, discusses a different type of war that Dr. Vale and many other health professionals working in abortion clinics in Puerto Rico are facing after the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

Ramirez de Arellano sheds light on the legislative moves in play stating, “The focus will now be on passing piecemeal legislation that, like water torture, will chip away at abortion rights and access to abortion, specifically targeting clinics.”

I will continue to write about the subject, because the controversy is not over yet. The IWMF has allowed me to soak up the issue and has given me the tools to continue researching and bringing it to light.

– Susanne Ramirez de Arellano

Community Health Workers Go The Extra Mile To Deliver Immunization In Burundi

Fidès Minani, a CHW, visits the household of Spés Caritas Nduwimana.

After completing the Global Health Reporting Initiative trainings, Ferdinand Mbonihankuye published a story in Ibihe on the key role Community Health Workers (CHWs) play in access and education of vaccines, especially in hard-to-reach communities, while highlighting CHWs’ lack of salaries, incentives, and support. Mbonihankuye visited several households in Eastern Burundi who have benefitted from visits of CHWs and interviewed these workers about their efforts to spread awareness on the importance of vaccines, despite not being paid.

I am at a higher level and it is thanks to [the Global Health Reporting Initiative] training. … I want to thank the IWMF trainers, who give their heart and soul to share their experiences and provide us with the appropriate vaccine experts.

– Ferdinand Mbonihankuye

Demand for home health aides is soaring. So why are they still so undervalued?

With 75% of adults wanting to age in place, the demand for home health aides is clear, but the mental health implications of the job may hinder and decrease the supply of this profession. Through the Fund for Women JournalistsGina Ryder reported a story for STAT highlighting the stress and abuse home health aides experience.

Ryder sums up the connection: “Experts say that improving the mental health and working conditions of home health aides isn’t just important for the workers themselves — it will also go a long way toward ensuring that patients get the best possible care.”

Even in my initial reporting it’s beyond clear that home health aides are crucial to our public health and could benefit from a further spotlight on the unique health issues they face. I am so grateful to IWMF’s thoughtful consideration and support of my work.

– Gina Ryder