Health literacy, the capacity patients have to obtain, process and understand basic health information to make appropriate health decisions, is a global public health concern. In South Africa, studies have shown only 20% of the population is health literate. This is consistently linked to poorer health outcomes. 

Most South Africans rely on the media for health information. The National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey found that four in five survey participants relied on news media for their trusted source of Covid-19-related information. However, most health content is in English, and therefore inaccessible to much of the population who prefer consuming media in vernacular languages. The health beat is not prioritised in newsrooms, so health-related content is not sufficiently amplified. Furthermore, available content is vertical, speaking down to an audience, and not entirely relevant to their needs. 

This context sparked the creation of the Health Equity Media Lab (HEML), currently in the ideation stage. HEML is a website and app platform that will produce health content informed by the needs of communities, in local languages, and with a focus on the structural and social determinants of health, intersectionality and human rights. 

HEML works to create a society in which every person has access to reliable health information that empowers them to make good health choices, and self-advocate for the right to better health. 

We know that information is an essential pillar of public health, and that by enabling better access to the right information, we can play some part in making health outcomes more equitable, and reducing the high burden of disease. 

We joined Jamlab because we want to deepen our understanding of media entrepreneurship, develop a commercially viable and socially impactful venture, and have opportunities to pitch to potential investors, funders and various stakeholders. By the end of the programme, we’d like to have a pilot ready for a soft launch. 

The JamLab Accelerator is a six-month hothouse programme for journalism and media innovators. It is based at Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct in the heart of Johannesburg.

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