Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Health Evidence Collection & Usage
By James Achanyi-Fontem, Cameroon Link
A two-day workshop for civil society organizations (CSO) and Journalists on health and use of data ended in Douala on the 3rd December 2011 at Hotel la Falaise. It was organized by the centre for the Development of best practices in health (CDBPS-H) based at the Yaoundé Central Hospital with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Key speakers during the workshop were Dr. Jean Serge Ndongo, who leads the team, Robert Marie Mba, a sociologist who concentrated on how to make well informed decisions from basic facts, Dr. Lawrence Mbuagbaw, who coached the participants on usage of internet links for collection of researched information and Dr. Habiba who shared her experiences during a field investigation for collection of information and health data.
The training started with the introduction of what taking well informed public health decision is about, how to carry out a search of viable sources information on the internet and judge its quality and when the information data is collected, how to make us of it.
The 24 participants drawn from media houses and civil society organizations from the littoral and south west regions were coached during a practical exercise on how to identify and analyze health problems. After the analysis of a problem, the quantified information can then be considered for use in taking a well informed decision that would not be contested.
Dr. Lawrence Mbuagbaw talked about assessing the quality of evidence through explanatory notes covering evaluation, and tools that can be used for evidence assessment. Participants were guided in a practical session of evidence assessment with a case. It was observed that media publications on health did not adequately discuss cost effectiveness of patient treatment nor quantified benefit of a new drug.
The published articles hardly evaluate the quality of the evidence, though many tools exist to treat quality evidence in medical research. The understanding of the workshop content is going to help determine how much confidence to place in the medical results made public almost on daily basis.
It was observed that some journalists have often confused association with causality. In other words, association is explained as two things going together, while causality in one thing causing the other. A good example is that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer and promiscuity is associated with HIV infection. It should be understood that a promoted new product does not always mean the best product. It is simply an effect of consumerism and new products should be marketed ardently.
To publish health articles, journalists are advised to use data bases that have some measure of quality control and that have high quality evidence; The Cochrane library has been quoted as a good place for collection of evidence, because published works are well researched.
Health specialists should be contacted when a journalist is not sure of the quality of evidence and a check list should be used to ensure quality. Biomedical viable information sources are: www.who.int/en/, www.unicef.org/, www.unfpa.org , www.phmovement.org, www.cdss.dros-minisante;cameroun.org, www.statistics-cameroon.org, www.cdbph.org, www.consumers.cochrane.org/