First Pan-African Health Journalism Network Created

Jun 62012
  • Founding members of Africa's first continent-wide health journalists network met for four days to hammer out the many details needed to launch the association.

  • Former Knight Health Journalism Fellow Zarina Geloo, who worked to improve health reporting in Zambia, will serve as vice-chair of the new association.

  • The founding members of the new association and ICFJ President Joyce Barnathan gathered at Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center in Italy.

  • Knight Health Journalism Fellow Declan Okpalaeke, who has launched a new multimedia health section at This Day newspaper in Nigeria, will serve as the chairman of the new health journalism association.

Bellagio, Italy—Journalists from across Africa announced the creation of the first continent-wide professional association of health journalists.

The new organization, the African Health Journalists Association, aims to improve the quality and quantity of reporting on health issues so that people across the continent can make healthy choices for their lives. The group’s media coverage will encourage the best possible public health programs and policies throughout the continent.

The association will create a digital network with online learning, the latest data visualization tools and techniques for multimedia storytelling. It will serve as a one-stop source of health experts, resources and journalists who will collaborate on cross-border stories. The association will provide training for its members in everything from investigative health reporting to data mining. On a new website and social network, members will share reporting and writing strategies.

“This network will take health journalism to a new level of professionalism and cooperation in Africa,” said Joyce Barnathan, president of the International Center for Journalists, which organized the meeting at the request of African journalists. The Rockefeller Foundation sponsored the four-day gathering at its conference center in Bellagio, Italy.

A steering committee of journalists from South Africa, Zambia, Uganda, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Kenya selected Declan Okpalaeke, a respected Nigerian journalist, as its chairman to launch the new association. Okpalaeke, a winner of CNN’s African Journalist of the Year Awards for his coverage of health, science and the environment, is a Knight Health Journalism Fellow.

“We believe the African Health Journalists Association will serve as a gateway to all of Africa for organizations wishing to promote health and support health journalism,” said Okpalaeke. “By pooling resources, we can provide more journalists with a richer array of training and tools than ever before.”

Zarina Geloo, a former Knight Health Journalism Fellow and a media consultant based in Zambia, will serve as vice-chair. Joy Wanja, a science and health reporter at the Daily Nation in Nairobi, Kenya, was named secretary.

The pan-African health journalism association will encourage the formation of national health journalism groups in Africa, building on the success of associations in Uganda, Zambia and Kenya. These organizations were established with help from Knight International Journalism Fellows. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation support the fellowships.


The International Center for Journalists, a non-profit organization, promotes quality journalism worldwide in the belief that independent, vigorous media are crucial in improving the human condition. For 27 years, ICFJ has worked directly with more than 70,000 journalists from 180 countries.

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. More at www.knightfoundation.org.