Health communication and I go way back. All the way back to my childhood spent on various campuses full of knowledge.
A little history
Having grown up in and around the Pharmaceutical Sciences faculty building, I was surrounded by research posters on phytochemistry, nanotechnology, pharmacology, and public health. Every day after school I would walk past busy labs full of white-coated postgrads and quiet offices of academics looking up journals to publish in. I couldn’t really understand most of what they were doing, but I knew that they were trying to share their knowledge with the world in the most accessible way they knew. They used pictures, graphs, bold headings, and English. It was always in English. And as my reading ability improved, I found myself remembering and understanding the format of science communication. For a young mind, it seemed only natural to be both exhausted by the complicated work of these scientists and the excitement of applying my own interests to the mini science lessons I picked up on afternoon walks around the building.
Effective health communication and language are two sides of the same coin
In 2015 I went off and studied Journalism and Linguistics because it made more sense to me, but I still wandered around the science buildings picking up new words. English remained the most popular language of science communication, and there I was looking for an internship in the field.
Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) is renowned for Scifest Africa. It's a science expo that invites everyone to experience the joys and wonders of everyday science, and sometimes even the science of the future. And this is where I got my first gig as a science writer. The goal at every event I covered was to help the public understand the science in a friendly, accessible way. And achieving this goal, again and again, was the highlight of my first year of university. I honestly couldn’t imagine a more perfect way to work.
I tried to incorporate science, technology, and health in every assignment I could for the remainder of university. I may not have studied the sciences as much as I did language, but I knew how to communicate big ideas in simple ways. And when it was time to decide on a Master's research topic I knew exactly what to study. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, I was researching how to effect potential behaviour change among peer educators through digital media. For my study, I simplified and digitised information about antimicrobial resistance from food sources to encourage the uptake of four simple food safety behaviours.
The beginnings of TFQ
Not long after submitting my thesis, health communication became a huge part of my work! From TB to African tickbite fever, I got to design educational posters and social media posts for South African doctors and organisations to develop awareness and improve access to health information. I knew this is what I wanted to be doing more of in my career.
Health is a human right, and access to health information that is relevant, appropriate, and well-designed is in service to this right. With millions on the internet, there’s a lot of information floating around. While most peer-reviewed stuff makes sense, the misinformation feels easier to learn because of how relatable and accessible it is. Credible information takes a lot of time to develop and comes with a high reward for those who make an effort to understand it properly. But misinformation? Well, that’s only one WhatsApp forward away. It’s way, way easier to pop someone a message with a cure and a hyperlink to armchair pharmacopsychology.
Let's work together
Covid gave us a chance to really think about the ways health information is vetted and shared. And while social media may scare us away from the credibility of health information, it’s also worth remembering that credible sources exist on Instagram and TikTok — with millions of followers. From reels about sexual and reproductive health education to YouTube videos about alcohol affects the human anatomy, modern healthcare professionals make content that sticks. And that means health information is made accessible and worth remembering.
And if that kind of credibility is your goal, TFQ is here to bring your vision to life. The agency offers script writing, video editing, and educational design targeted to your audience! TFQ is a small enough agency that you get dedicated attention to your vision, and a bold enough one that your ideas can be shared with a global audience.
Get in touch with me and let’s communicate health!