Combatting health misinformation is everybody's business - Commissioner

By Abubakar Hassan

Niger state Commissioner for secondary and tertiary health, Dr. Bello Tukur has observed that combatting health misinformation is everybody's business.

The Commissioner stated this while delivering a keynote address during the health misinformation management fellowship orientation program, organized by Nigeria Health Watch (NHW) in collaboration with the Niger State Ministry of primary healthcare and that of Secondary and tertiary health, held at Guidel Hotel, Minna, Friday.

He observed that the issue of health misinformation transcends borders, beliefs, and backgrounds, and it affects every life, family, and community in the state and beyond, hence the reason why it is everybody's business.

Health misinformation according to the Commissioner is very dangerous and a threat to the health sector as it has creeps into our lives through social media, whispers through the grapevine, and finds its way into our most trusted news sources and communities, adding that it has distorted facts, undermined trust and threaten the foundations of public health.

He pointed out that the fight against health misinformation was critical and it is everybody's business because it jeopardizes lives, undermines the very fabric of our healthcare system, and increases health disparities, adding that the fight was not merely a responsibility but a moral imperative because it the matter is multi-faceted and cannot be fought by one entity.

He disclosed that in keeping in line with the vision of Governor Umar Bago, to use innovative solutions in moving the state forward in all facets of development, the two-state health ministries were collaborating with Nigeria Health Watch to ensure that Nigerlites and Nigerians are well equipped with tools and knowledge to make informed decisions about their health.

Dr. Tukur who was represented at the occasion by the director of planning, research, and statistics of the ministry, Pharmacist Hamza Tijjani Yahaya also revealed that the launching of the Niger State Health Misinformation Management Fellowship was birthed by the result of the 2022 project piloted by NHW in combatting health misinformation in the state.

While congratulating those who passed the screening to become members of the Health Misinformation Management Fellowship, the Commissioner reminded them that the fight against health misinformation is not merely about confronting falsehoods, but about upholding truth and safeguarding lives, adding that by working together they can restore trust in our healthcare system and promote science-based information, as well as ensure that every citizen in the state can make informed decisions about their health.

Earlier, the state director of public health, Dr. Ibrahim Idris urged the fellowship members to be good ambassadors of the project and the state by saying and doing the right things.

He also disclosed that the orientation training in which they will be engaged will equip them with the right information to disseminate, urging them to pay attention to the training program so that they will be better equipped for the task ahead.

Giving an overview of the health misinformation management fellowship program, the NHW Director of Programs, Dr. Kemisola Agbaoye said the fellowship program is a dynamic and intensive program designed to address the challenges posed by vaccine hesitancy and the dissemination of false health information.

She explained that the fellowship was a strategic response to the rapid spread of misinformation which poses a significant threat to public health, and it was not an isolated endeavor but an integral component of the broader Health Misinformation Management Project.

Dr. Agbaoye disclosed that the fellows will be engaged in a series of intensive activities ranging from training, media engagement, community sensitization, motorized campaigns, town announcements, markets, schools, and parks storms among others, while successful fellows will be given certificates of completion and the best will support subsequent fellowship programs in the country.

While appreciating the partnership between NHW and the two health ministries in the state, the NHW Director of programs also commended the state Governor for creating two ministries to manage the health sector of the state, saying it is a sign of good things that will come to the health sector of the state.

Participants of the event were drawn from the Media, faith-based organizations, women and youth groups, as well as market women. The Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Niger state chapter, Comrade Abu Nmadu was also present at the event.

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