Journalists from the Mail & Guardian and Bhekisisa the M&G’s Centre for Health Journalism took home top prizes on Friday as part of the annual health journalism awards.
Bhekisisa senior multimedia journalist Demelza Bush took home top honours in the video category for their documentary on conditions for those awaiting trial at Cape Town’s Pollsmoor Prison. The 9-minute documentary exposed how chronic overcrowding at the prison has sparked a tuberculosis epidemic in the correctional facility.
Former Bhekisisa reporter Ina Skosana won in the category of best feature writing for her work on refugees’ struggle for healthcare in South Africa. The three-part series looked at what refugees leave behind and what awaits them when they’ve found their second home.
The M&G’s Lynley Donnelly won best health economics reporting for her article “Tax on soft drinks could benefit obese SA”. The piece examined South Africa’s recently adopted sugar tax and what the country can learn from places like Mexico and whether or not a price on sugar will really lead to automatic declines in skyrocketing rates of obesity.
Bhekisisa news editor Laura Lopez Gonzalez and reporter Pontsho Pilane were also among the night's finalists.
Journalism professor Tawana Kupe commended entries into this year’s awards, which were some of the most competitive to date:
“We were impressed by the level of insight into subjects reported on and by the quality of information conveyed in most entries. Health reporting is improving all the time – and rightly so considering its critical role in educating people and keeping them informed,” he said in a statement.
Fellow judge and television journalist Anna-Maria van Niekerk had this advice for aspiring health journalists: “Learn the basics of good science reporting … You can learn that at places like Bhekisisa.”
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Finally capping its own medics, the country must now retain them and coax them into rural areas.
Bhekisisa means "to scrutinise" in Zulu
In South Africa, Zulu patients who would like to be thoroughly assessed by a doctor, would ask the physician to "bhekisisa" them.