In a day of riveting conversations, including uncomfortable topics that hinted at a gulf in cooperation and a need for more collaboration, journalists from leading media houses in Uganda engaged scientists in One Health during a March 20 Science Media Café at Makerere University.

Organized by COHESA, the engagement brought to the fore issues in One Health that should be prioritized in the engagement between the two parties.

Do the researchers have enough trust in journalists’ reporting? Are they (researchers) availing themselves to the journalists for interviews? Is there a clear understanding among the public that these journalists write for about One Health? What, really, is One Health?

Theo Knight Jones, the Project Lead and Project Investigator for COHESA, and Clovice Kyanka, the Country Multiplier Lead for Uganda, defined One Health to journalists, explaining the linkages between animals, humans and the environment, including the possible transfer of elements such as disease between the different aspects of the ecosystem.

Musa Sekamatte, the National One Health Coordinator in Uganda, followed the same approach, outlining to the journalists the “need for a paradigm shift from a compartmentalized approach to handling messy or complex health challenges.”

And when the journalists spoke, they detailed how they think experts in One Health can help them in disseminating information about their efforts, based on past, mainly difficult, experiences.

First, the journalists agreed on the need to themselves take responsibility by focusing on impact stories, and roping in experts for their stories. They also spoke about the need to prioritise visiting the lab or field where scientists are working, and meeting the communities that are direct beneficiaries of science instead of trying to synthesize information from the comfort of their office desks.

In the wake of what was listed as recurring unavailability of key scientists amid journalists’ tight deadlines for delivery, they suggested keeping a record of contacts for relevant, easily available scientists who are able to take questions whenever called upon.

A challenge of how to communicate technical jargon in One Health was discussed, with many local communities only able to digest information if broken down to their local languages.

But it was the question of whether scientists trust journalists enough that sparked unending debate.

Afraid of misrepresentation, it was observed that scientists would rather not talk to journalists. While this is safe for the scientists, gains made in One Health and other aspects of science go largely unnoticed, thus unappreciated and unadopted.

But this trust, it was agreed, is cultivated over time through constant engagement.

Long, bureaucratic processes put in place to frustrate journalists’ ability to get information fast and efficiently were cited as a reason for journalists’ failure to write enough- and compellingly- for the public. 


Mr Sekamatte asked the journalists to, for facilitation to visit farms and interact with farmers and experts for impact stories, write concept papers to the government and ask for funding.

Prof Kyanka highlighted the need to appreciate the differences between journalists and scientists and work with each other and spoke about the need for trust to be cultivated between the two.

“Journalists, you can always find me to interview me. I will always be available, but you have to quote me correctly,” he said, urging more scientists to follow his lead.

The session moderator asked the scientists to take it easy on journalists in case there was a mistake in quoting, with the newsroom hierarchy likely to introduce errors in submitted work.

Journalists were asked to be careful not to make basic errors, such as misrepresentation of ideas, incorrect crediting and use of wrong titles. With these basic adjustments, many other experts in One Health could feel comfortable to come up and be interviewed.