Global Health Week addresses role of journalism in global health

Meghan Sharma | Staff Reporter

Students discussed the intersection of global health and journalism with global health experts at Washington University’s annual Global Health Week Feb. 26 to Mar. 1.

Programming included panels and lunches to network with journalists who documented humanitarian crises and their impacts on healthcare access.

Events focused on the work of Jon Cohen, Emmy-winning staff writer for Science Magazine; Carl Gierstorfer, documentarian on the Ebola epidemic in Liberia; and Jon Sawyer, executive director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. The three journalists participated in a panel in Graham Chapel alongside Dr. Megan Baldridge and Jae Lee from the Washington University School of Medicine Wednesday night.

“[The panel showed] short clips of the films they had made and talked about AIDS, Ebola and the importance of not only covering these issues but also doing so in an ethical, proper way,” junior Ani Gururaj, president of the Global Health Student Advisory Committee, said. “We got the largest [student] crowd from the Wednesday night event. We also got a larger crowd than we expected from the external community and people in the St. Louis area.”

A featured panel on Thursday focused on career opportunities for global health.

“It was really interesting to hear how [public health journalists] go into different countries, capture these moments and then translate them so they are available to a broader audience, one that’s not necessarily focused on public health,” Samantha Williams, a graduate student in the Applied Health Behavior Research Program, said.

The Global Health Student Advisory Committee hopes to provide students with more ways to get involved in Global Health Week in the future.

“Next year, it would be nice to have more Wash. U. student engagement in our events, whether that be through case competitions, a filmmaking contest or something else that gets students to engage more in [global health] issues,” Gururaj said.

Gururaj hopes that this year’s unique focus on the intersection of global health and journalism helped students learn something new about global health.

“This year was unique in the sense that we were able to explore a topic that not many people know about or think about when they think of global health,” Gururaj said. “When a lot of people think of global health, they think that you have to be a doctor, get an MPH or work for a NGO. That’s not true. There are so many different things you can do within global health. Some of those ways are filmmaking or writing about healthcare in magazines like Science to convey healthcare issues…in a way that gets the public to understand challenging topics in a very convenient, coherent way.”