Health For Mzansi is produced by Mzansi Story Lab, a specialised content development team combining the journalistic expertise of the Food For Mzansi Group and YehBaby Creatives.
Health For Mzansi is not a publication about diseases. It is about how food and habits can take ordinary South Africans from surviving to thriving. It strives to be the go-to news source for young South Africans; a safe space where they uncomplicate health and discuss mental health.
Less than a year after its launch, Health For Mzansi was announced as the best Gen Z initiative in the African Digital Media Awards – the most prestigious awards for digital news publishers on the continent.
We spoke to Noluthando Ngcakani, heads of news and the digital agency’s chief executive Ronelle Louwren about the work they do and winning the African Digital Media Awards.
The publication launched less than a year ago and already the publication has won an award at the African Digital Media Awards. What does the win mean to you as a publication that has recently launched?
Noluthando Ngcakani: It is exciting. Health is such a sacred journey for everyone. Health For Mzansi is a publication that strives to put the audience first. The response has been immense and to win an international award for what we are trying to achieve – bring health to a younger and neglected audiences – is nothing short of exciting.
Ronelle Louwrens: It is a great honour for such a young publication. To be honest there was and still is a lot testing the content and application. We are blessed to be reaching precisely the audience we intended to. So it feels like we are on the right path and now we can scale up from here. The award is such a confidence boost.
What exactly is your publication all about and how do you keep your content new and exciting?
Noluthando: Health For Mzansi is a kasi (slang for South African township) health and wellness publication. The publication is on a mission to provide our audience with perspective and holistic healing through changed eating habits and their relationship with food. The brand is centred around four core aspects, community, access, comfort, and safety.
Ronelle: It is about kasi health – accessible relatable information about how food and habits can take a person from surviving to thriving. We also take care to highlight the connection between land and production encouraging people to try growing their own food. We keep it exciting because we care deeply and have an innovative and strong team.
How has the public responded to your content? Do you think there is an appetite for content or publications that solely focus on health?
Noluthando: We don’t just focus on medicines and diseases. We believe that health is a holistic journey, we offer stories that explore mind, body and soul and people are tuning in.
Ronelle: We’ve had a great response, health is everyone’s most important asset.
Your publication has articles ranging from child nutrition, food garden and maternal mental health. How do you choose which stories make sense and are relevant for your publication?
Ronelle: It’s kasi health and we are a community! Even though our audience is young, they have sistas, grannies, aunties and friends they care for and advise. The info and application are fun, but the topics are relatable to a diverse audience. We are inspired by the people we meet and trends and we pay a lot of attention to readers’ enquiries. We aim to give really good guidance with which people can empower themselves on their health journeys.
What is the Sisters without Shame podcast about and what type of topics do you explore on the podcast?
Noluthando: Sisters Without Shame aims to create a safe space for our audience. It is a dedicated platform where the audience can write in, or send us a voice note about a medical, or emotional issue that they are too embarrassed to speak out about in public. We connect them to a medical professional who has all the answers to their burning questions that they have been too scared to ask. We explore a variety of topics from mental health and burnout to breastfeeding, menopause and even men’s health.
What do you pin your success to?
Ronelle: Empathy and thorough understanding of online publications.
How do you make sure you stand out in a crowded digital news space?
Ronelle: We have a very unique approach to all our publications, which in the case of Health for Mzansi, is about really understanding the kasi environment and what people struggle with. Our design and the digital team have a lot of experience in positioning content for Gen Z and together we have magic.
What is next for Health for Mzansi?
Ronelle: Of course, we have exciting content and business plans in the pipeline, but the main push forward is to keep growing with the readers and having meaningful conversations.
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