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The role of the press in communicating development messages cannot be over-emphasised. The way and manner these messages are ‘framed’ within the frame of mind of the readers is as important as the communication of such messages. This study focuses on Newspaper Framing of Health MDGs in Nigeria. It sought to determine the frequency of coverage, angle of Health MDGs framed, level of prominence given to Health MDGs as well as the challenges facing the reportage of Health MDGs stories. Content analysis, survey and textual analysis methods were used as the manifest content of communication of four randomly selected national newspapers (from January 2012 to December 2012). The results were analysed with interview responses from Journalists who cover these events. The findings reveal that Health MDGs stories recorded more frequency of coverage but low prominence in terms of placement. Ownership influence and profit motive of newspaper institutions were among the challenges facing the reportage of Health MDGs in Nigeria. The researcher recommends, among other things, that public interest should be a determining factor for prominence in newspaper reportage of any issue. Also, Journalists should endeavour to frame news contents towards promoting positive attitudes in the people towards government institutions in the country.   



1.1 Background of the Study

 Nigeria is a development-conscious nation. The country is also community -conscious. Development is a participatory process of social change, which is intended to bring about both social and material improvement in a society. Most Nigerians tend to identify with their community and as such, most of their discussions are centered on community development. The desire for many Nigerians to attract development to their community remains paramount to indigenes. This can be clearly seen among Nigerians, most of who tend to identify themselves based on villages/tribes.

 Development involves greater number of people gaining control over their immediate environment, empowering people to be self-reliant and creating the right environment for people to improve their living conditions. The slow pace at which most nations in the world are developing has become a worrisome trend and this can be linked to various trends such as poor medical facilities, poverty etc. Kayode & Adeniran (2012, p.1) gave credence to this claim as they stated that people experience extreme poverty with a substantial segment of the population living in deplorable conditions and lacking basic amenities. According to Soola, (2002):

A holistic view of development must conceive of development as people centered, human capital-based, designed and packaged to promote the wellbeing of the beneficiaries of development. It must recognise the need for people participation and self-reliance within the complex increasingly interdependent world of globalisation. Development must not only be quantitative and qualitative in a mutually beneficial and reinforcing manner but must also appreciate the endogenous and exogenous dimensions of development (p.15).

In summary, Soola’s definition pointed out that development is like democracy - it must be of the people, by the people and for the people.

To a large extent, health, poverty, economy, education, science and technology, manpower etc, affect the rate at which a nation develops. However, the bid to reduce poverty level in developing nations led to the declaration of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the year 2000 by 189 world leaders and members of the United Nations (Annanmore-Yao, 2004, p. 21). Under the MDGs, countries were mandated to cut by half the incidence of poverty come 2015, among other goals, though, MDGs was actually designed to complement other efforts to improve the quality of the countries’ poverty rate and health and also aimed at building the nations capacity by 2015 (UNAIDS/WHO, 2005).

In September 2000, 189 world leaders made a commitment to achieve the MDGs by 2015 (United Nations General Assembly, 2000). Fatusi and Jimoh, (2006, p.323) noted that there are national and regional efforts to achieve the MDGs through an extensive body of normative and technical work and the building system to track progress and measure achievement as well as to coordinate technical collaboration.

 The meeting of the 189 world leaders ended with a resolution to ensure that the rate of poverty is reduced. In addition, the issue of health was addressed during the meeting of these world leaders. Other issues discussed include gender inequality, poor education, and lack of access to drinkable water and the issue of environmental degradation (WHO, 2003).

It is worthy of note that, three of the eight goals are directly related to health: to reduce maternal-mortality by three-quarter; child mortality by two-thirds; and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Worthy of note is that health is an essential component of three other targets: to reduce the proportion of people who suffer from hunger; improve access to safe drinking water and sanitation; and ensure affordable, safe access to essential drugs.

 Between December 2 and 3, 2004, a High-Level Forum (HLF) on the Health MDGs was held in Abuja, the forum (HLF) was hosted by the government of Nigeria and organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Bank. The health problems confronting developing nations were the key issue discussed in the forum. World leaders in health and development, ministers of Health and Finance, aid donors, senior representatives of the global development community and charitable foundations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, were in attendance (Busari, 2004 p.88).

The members of HLF on Health MDGs mapped out actions in several key areas of international health and development. These include increased funding from national governments and donors for the attainment of the health goals, better coordination between donors to manage aid, urgent action to address a massive shortage of health workers, particularly in Southern Africa, and greater attention to fragile states - countries affected by crisis.

Eight years after HLF was held in Abuja on Health MDGs, statistics showed that there is a significant progress in the achievement of the set goals on Health MDGs (Fatusi & Jimoh, 2006, p.323). Dr. Lee Jong Wook, Director-General of WHO, said progress is possible with commitment and that technology and proven health interventions are often available and affordable. Dr. Lee pointed those countries with little money, such as Peru, Mozambique and Vietnam, where systematic efforts to improve health care is working. According to Lee, “We believe that, there is much we can do now to move from promises to better lives for millions of poor people” (Annamore-Yao, 2004, p.8).

With regard to health as a social institution, WHO (2001) defines a healthy system as “All the activities whose primary purpose is to promote, restore, or maintain health.” These activities include the facility-based system, interventions at the household and community levels, as well as broader public health interventions such as food fortification or anti-smoking campaigns. It also includes all categories of providers such as public and private, formal and informal, for profit and non-profit, allopathic and indigenous, etc. On the other hand, it also includes mechanisms, such as insurance, by which the system is financed as well as the various regulatory authorities and professional bodies who are meant to be the ‘stewards’ of the system. But the health system is not simply a mechanical structure to delivery technical interventions the way a post office delivers a letter. Rather, health systems are core social institutions. They function at the interface between people and the structure of power that shape their broader society.

To see that the goals are achieved, several sectors took part in disseminating the information such as Non-governmental Organisations, private sectors, newspaper agencies, and others (Kanki & Adeyi, 2006, p.7). All these were done with the aim of improving developing countries’ health sector.

 However, Nigerian newspapers cover local issues, politics, major events and celebrations, lifestyle of the Nigerian people and business news. Newspapers are becoming increasingly popular and increasingly controversial. Most of the newspapers’ coverage in Nigeria supports the achievement of the MDGs by providing relevant information. The Nigerian newspapers have played a very significant role in achieving a sincere and responsible government by being candidly vocal about the social, economic, political, as well as health issues in Nigeria (Fatusi & Jimoh, 2006, p. 323).

Just like other nations, Nigeria has a state-owned news agency called the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) from which some Nigerian newspapers usually obtain their daily raw news. Direct reporting is also largely practised by Nigerian media with Nigerian newspapers covering local and national first-hand news. They also monitor core health indicators for other areas of public health that help explain progress in the achievement of specific goals at country level. These include immunisation coverage for new antigens, prevalence of risk factors for non-communicable diseases, effectiveness of interventions against these diseases, and impoverishment of households through health payments.

To this effect, Nigeria press is expected to provide the masses with information on how the country is striving to meet the health-related MDGs and this forms the pivot on which this study is conducted on.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

According to report on the MDGs, the media coverage of MDGs is low and not encouraging in the rural areas and as such there is media neglect, especially by the print media, on health-related issues in rural areas (Fatusi & Jimoh, 2006, p.324). Commercialisation has eaten deep into the print industry and news items with financial footings and backings are now being prioritised by media men.

The MDGs’ target of 2015 is relatively strange to the target audience (Fatusi & Jimoh, 2006, p.323).This, to a great level, throws doubt at its survival and achievement. The media, no doubt, is expected to promote the MDGs, but to a large extent, the goals, according to Jimoh, (2007, p.323), are still unheard of to majority of the said targets. Poor dissemination of information on the MDGs has obvious consequences to development in Nigeria. The lack of awareness of MDGs, as a result of poor dissemination of the said goals, will slow the actualisation of MDG’s deadline come 2015.

To this end, there is need to know if the increasing popularity of print media news items have strengthened or weakened people’s knowledge on Health MDGs.

On the other hand, how news on the MDGs is covered matters a lot. The print media are sometimes accused of writing news in the form that makes it difficult for an average person in the audience to understand. Most of the news do not take into cognisance individuals as well as cultural differences in the way people accept, process and interpret information passed on to them.

It is based on the above that this study aims at examining newspaper framing of Health MDGs in Nigeria with specific reference to four selected newspapers in Nigeria, namely: The Guardian, Vanguard, Punch and Daily Sun newspapers.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The major objective of the study is to examine Newspaper Framing of Health MDGs in Nigeria, using four selected newspapers.

Specific objectives of the study are as follows:

i.                    To find out the frequency of newspaper reports of Health MDGs in Nigeria

ii.                 To ascertain the level of prominence given to stories on the MDGs by the Nigerian press.

iii.               To ascertain the angle of stories on Health MDGs that was given prominence.

iv.               To find out the various interpretations given to issues arising from Health MDGs in the Nigerian press.

v.                  To ascertain the challenges facing newspaper reportage of Health MDGs in Nigeria.

1.4 Research Questions

This study aims at providing answers to the following research questions:

1        What is the frequency of newspaper reports of Health MDGs in Nigeria?

2        What is the level of prominence given to stories on the MDGs by the Nigerian press?

3        What angle of the stories on Health MDGs was given prominence in the newspapers?

4        How were the issues arising from Health MDGs interpreted in Nigerian newspapers?

5        What are the challenges facing newspaper reportage of Health MDGs in Nigeria?

1.5 Significance of the Study

This study will be of great significance to the audience, who will appreciate the role of the newspaper framing of Health MDGs to their daily lives. Professionally, the study will expose the role of mass media in reporting the Health MDGs goals in developing countries, particularly in Nigeria. The study will also help people to know health issues and other MDGs as they affect them and enhance individual and communal health.

            Academically, the study will add to literature on Health and MDGs in developing countries, particularly in Nigeria. It will also serve as a reference material to students and lecturers. Also, the findings from this study will serve as a springboard to present and future researchers who intend to carry out similar studies on the above subject matter and other aspects of the MDGs.

Theoretically, theories can emerge from this study on how health related issues should be reported mostly in developing nations like ours.

1.5 Scope of Study

The content scope of this research work is limited to newspapers framing of Health MDGs. By Health MDGs we mean Goals 4, 5 and 6 which are: Reducing Child Mortality, Improving Maternal Health, and Combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other Diseases respectively. The time scope is one year, from January 2012 to December 2012. The manifest content of four national newspapers: The Punch, Daily Sun, Vanguard and The Guardian newspapers will be examined.

1.7 Operational Definition of Terms

The key terms used in this study need to be defined in the context of the meaning assigned to them for the sole purpose of this study; they include:

Framing: Conceptually, framing means the process of organising idea or story line in such a way as to provide meaning to an unfolding strip of events and weaving a connection among them. It is emphasising salience of different aspects of an issue.

Health: A state of being mentally and physically well.

MDGs: This means Millennium Development Goals

Health MDGs: These are the MDGs that are related to health issues and they include: Goal 4: Reducing Child Mortality; Goal 5: Improving Maternal Health; and Goal 6: Combating HIV/AIDs, Malaria and other diseases.

Media: This is any means of communicating information from one person to another or any means employed to relay information to members of the society. Here the print media forms the focus of this study.

Newspaper: A loosely-bound copy of print material that contains news about current issues in the society, advertisement, correspondence, etc.

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