The Faculty of Nursing and Health Sciences (FNHS) and the Faculty of Humanities (FH) at Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) held an event titled “Health Communication in Lebanon: Lessons Learned from the Pandemic,” with the aim of highlighting the significance of health communication, the role it played during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how it continues to pan out in light of the recent cholera outbreaks in Lebanon. Journalists Nazeer Rida, Editor of Asharq Al-Awsat, and Mirella Bou Khalil, Reporter at MTV Lebanon, were invited to share their expertise at the Pierre Abou Khater Auditorium, with Diane Skaini, Head of Digital Content at Annahar, joining via video intervention.
NDU faculty members included Dr. Jessy El Hayek, Dean of the FNHS, Dr. Maria Bou Zeid, Dean of the FH, and Dr. Jessica El Khoury, Associate Professor at the FH Department of Media Studies.
Dr. Bou Zeid opened the discussion by underlining the importance of health communication in the age of information, misinformation, and dis-information, where a significant number of people may be misled and exposed to unreliable narratives.
Providing his insight into the field of journalism in Lebanon, Mr. Rida gave an overview of investigative journalism and the role it plays in discerning fact versus fiction. In terms of the trajectory of the field given the pandemic and cholera’s current spread, he affirmed the necessity of ethical health communication in the country that delivers all the relevant information in an accessible manner, careful not to undermine certain health risks, while refraining from causing alarm.
Ms. Bou Khalil echoed this perspective, sharing her experience as a reporter and journalist wherein she had to assume a proactive role in order to relay proper information regarding COVID-19, finding herself in the same position with the latest news on cholera. She elaborated on the journalistic duty of simplifying medical and scientific terms to increase their accessibility to a mass audience, thereby providing them with the tools to take caution, a strategy she has since adopted in her reports.
In her prerecorded video intervention, Ms. Skaini explained the digital protocol undertaken by Annahar during the pandemic, a critical point in countering misinformation and the speed at which it transmits online, particularly on social media platforms.
The event closed with a word from Dr. El Hayek, who focused on the health sector’s responsibility in collaborating with the media to communicate accurate information. Dr. El Hayek brought attention to the specialized Health Communication major, a joint effort between the FNHS and FH that puts NDU on the map in leading a subset of journalism towards disseminating health points of interest to the masses with integrity.