Kenya's press takes on antimicrobial resistance

Written by
Davis Mkoji

Davis is founder and chairperson of the AMR Media Network in Kenya and Head of Corporate Affairs at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI).  

The media’s representation of health and illness shapes our understanding of the experience of illness, health, and healthcare, and influences health beliefs, behaviors, healthcare practices, and policy making. In late June last year, journalists and researchers came together at KEMRI to improve health reporting in the media and highlight the critical danger antimicrobial resistance (AMR) poses to human health. This resulted in the creation of Kenya’s AMR Media Network.

The aims of this intervention workshop were to equip reporters to:

  • communicate AMR risks to the media and in turn to the general public
  • empower the public to use antimicrobials appropriately
  • educate members of the press the media  that is geared towards improving AMR reporting in the media.
  • advocate for AMR prevention and containment

Pending funding, subsequent workshops will aim to develop a media engagement toolkit that can be used across the African region.

The AMR Media Network hopes for three effects to occur in the longer term:

  • That the public learns about antimicrobial use and resistance from accurate and reliable sources
  • That health attitudes and values about antimicrobials change for better
  • The establishment of new health behavior to preserve the power of antimicrobials.

The workshop resulted in several recommendations:

  • Appropriate packaging of AMR information for different audiences, taking into account language, cultural beliefs and sociodemographic factors of different target audiences
  • Using free and available media channels for create AMR awareness, especially by health professionals
  • Changing the term ‘antimicrobial resistance’ to either ‘drug resistance’ or ‘antibiotic resistance,’ since AMR seems complex and the general public may not relate to it
  • Producing documentary evidence on the effects of AMR on health and the economy using real life cases
  • Subsequent training with clearer messages

The AMR Media Network also participated in WHO AMR Week activities in Nairobi from 14-20 November 2016 to look at progress on Kenya’s National Action Plan on AMR, along with the Ministry of Health, GARP, ReAct Africa and the Ecumenical Pharmaceutical Network (EPN).

As a result of working together with researchers and policymakers on AMR, members of the press have been able to better report antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance. Some examples of interviews and articles that have resulted from the Media Network’s activities include:

If you’re a journalist, editor, researcher or policymaker in Kenya and would like to learn more about the Media Network, please contact Davis on dmkoji [at] gmail [dot] com.