Pulitzer Center Update

Moving the Dial on Science Communication at CUGH 2016

Filmmakers engage with audience members at CUGH 2016's Pulitzer Center Shorts Film Festival.

As researchers, practitioners, and educators gathered to exchange ideas at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH)’s annual conference, the Pulitzer Center challenged them to switch gears. For the third consecutive year, the Pulitzer Center led discussion and debate over science communication—how the global health community can engage the public on complex issues.

The conference, which was held April 9-11, 2016, in San Francisco, included the Pulitzer Center Shorts Film Festival and communications workshop. At the film festival, Pulitzer Center grantees Rob Tinworth, Carl Gierstorfer, and Larry Price each showed about 20 minutes of material, followed by a riveting Q&A session that ran 30 minutes overtime. Even among a field-experienced crowd, the moving global health scenes were met with audible gasps and a handful of expletives as well!

Given the audience, the film festival’s Q&A session had a heavy emphasis on the journalism ethics of covering vulnerable populations as it compares and contrasts to ethical guidelines for practitioners. One bioethicist inquired about cultural competence in places like Ebola-ridden Liberia. Several nurses in the audience wondered whether sources were compelled by filmmakers’ reasons for telling their stories. The session ended with a field worker commending the filmmakers saying, “You should know that you simply blow away the idea that these populations are the ‘other.’”

The communications workshop, this year called “How to Tell Your Global Health Story (So People Hear It),” focused on providing practical communications tools to community members. The panel included Amy Maxmen, a grantee who presented on blogging and social media techniques; Brian Simpson from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, on ‘Thinking Like an Editor,’ or principles of good pitching; Seema Yasmin, a grantee who led a live role-playing activity in which participants practiced the principles by pitching their own research/field stories to one another; and Tinworth, on trust and access, whether you’re the interviewer or the interviewee. We carried out the Q&A portion of the workshop via live text polling for efficiency. To cultivate ongoing discussion, a cocktail reception followed.

Both events were met with praise from audience members as well as Keith Martin, executive director of CUGH, with which our ongoing partnership is of deep value. The demand for this type of communications programming is ever clear.

To learn more about global health communications, please see the Pulitzer Center’s new Global Health Lesson Builder Initiative.