In many developing countries, the Ministry of Health is often viewed by outsiders as a place populated with bureaucrats and technocrats who issue policies but do little to make sure those policies work in health centers and hospitals. The media especially tends to avoid ministries of health because of an impression that they will become mired in bureaucratic, time-consuming tangles with little in return; journalists also worry that ministry officials could limit their reporting in the field and require costly permits from another governmental body to do their work. Many ministries do not have professional communications staff, do not know how to deal with media, and do not see the value in actively promoting their work.
MLI views ministries as places to seek out, not avoid, and it has set about to transform the way that ministries of health communicate their work and tell their stories to key audiences as the stewards of health care for their countries. There is value in ministry leaders telling local and global audiences about their successes and challenges. Media is a vehicle for reaching local audiences to communicate about the importance of accessing health services and generating support for new or emerging policy changes. By “opening a window” into the workings of ministries of health, these stories about their priorities, successes, and challenges can make a compelling case for increased donor support to advance policy reform and implementation.
Over the past year, MLI has helped “open a window” into the health ministries of its five partner countries: Ethiopia, Nepal, Mali, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. Stories about these countries have been placed in numerous diverse media outlets. The following selections represent some of the ministry stories that MLI has helped share.
Even though I have worked in Sierra Leone in the past, the role of MLI Country Lead has given me the opportunity to build upon these previous experiences and to work closely with members of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS), to support the implementation of health policies and reforms that they have prioritized.