In 2012, the South African-based Mail & Guardian newspaper covered few health issues. The health stories that did make the publication’s pages appeared in a sponsored pull-out supplement, hidden inside a newspaper filled with "more worthy" political and investigative articles.
With fewer than 3 500 monthly online hits, the M&G’s online health section was barely read and buried on the site as a sub-subsection of the news subsection.
But this scenario has since changed drastically.
With support from the German government, the M&G launched a health journalism centre, Bhekisisa, in January 2013. This enabled the publication to appoint a health editor and two reporters and also to offer reporters from other publications fellowships so they could be mentored when writing health stories.
In September 2015, Bhekisisa received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to expand its health coverage to the rest of the African continent. In March 2016, the centre launched its own website. Their Africa editor mentors fifteen reporters across Africa who file solutions-based health features for their website. Moreover, they work with health policymakers, activists and researchers to write opinion pieces for their website.
Bhekisisa regularly hosts and organises critical thinking forums on subjects such as South Africa’s National Health Insurance scheme, tuberculosis and the decriminalisation of sex work.
Bhekisisa is currently the M&G’s largest specialist editorial desk. It has seven full-time staff members, including a director/editor, news editor, senior multimedia journalist and three health journalists. Bhekisisa also has a part-time Africa editor and monitoring and evaluation specialist.
The newspaper edition of the M&G has two weekly health pages, but Bhekisisa reporters also publish articles in the newspaper’s comment and analysis and general news sections. Between 2012 and 2017, the online readership of the M&G’s health stories has increased 35 fold.
Where is Bhekisisa Development Media - Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism