All the best health stories from
the Bhekisisa team this week
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Last week, I did a really exciting thing. I visited the journalism fellows of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University to talk about Bhekisisa’s work. 

A few years ago, I was a fellow at the Institute myself. My time there, during which I researched the media’s reporting on HIV, significantly shaped what I’m doing today.

For one, it made me think about the way in which journalists tell stories. I started to explore if certain ways of telling stories are more powerful than others. 

Longform narrative journalism, I discovered, undoubtedly has impact — for news consumers,  it’s like reading a solid “short story” filled with suspense. 

But in 2016, I discovered an even more meaningful way of storytelling: solutions journalism

These are stories that report on social dilemmas in a Sherlock-Homes-Agatha Christie-detective kind of way  — they use research and compelling human narratives to investigate whether or not at least one solution to a particular problem is working (or not), and most importantly, they analyse why and how. 

One example is a story we published in 2018, Elsa and Nosipho: they both sell sex for a living, but in opposite worlds, that investigated what type of sex work legislation South Africa needs to bring down the sky-high HIV infection rates among workers. Spoiler alert: criminazaling the trade is not the answer.    

Two weeks ago, I got to meet David Bornstein, the CEO of the Solutions Journalism Network, the leading organisation in this field of reporting. He explains solutions journalism better than anyone I’ve heard, so I recorded him

Research shows people read solutions stories for longer than catastrophically framed stories that only focus on the problem. News consumers are also more likely to do something about the problem they learned about after reading a solutions story.  

So, before you go, read one of these solutions stories and see if they inspire you to act: 

* Joan van Dyk produced a fascinating feature on how therapy dogs help children who were sexually abused to testify in court

* Laura Lopez Gonzalez wrote a compelling story on the complex dilemma a new blockbuster HIV drug has introduced

* Our friends at Mosaic wrote about how this country is beating anti-vaxxers at their own game (we republished the feature)

Happy reading and listening

Mia Malan 
Bhekisisa editor-in-chief 
Help us keep quality health journalism free. Click here to support our team.
Our friends at the international science journalism publication, Mosaic, go the distance to find and report the science and health stories that matter.
Most recently, they’ve published on the role of vaping and e-cigarettes in quitting smoking, the damage caused by poorly regulated painkillers in West Africa, and why it’s so hard to stop people dying from snakebite.
To be the first to hear about their new long reads and podcasts, sign up to Mosaic’s newsletter.
Life on a hotter earth: Depression, drought and decolonising #mentalhealth, via @mosaicscience: Life on a hotter earth: Depression, drought and decolonising #mentalhealth, via @mosaicscience:
You've heard us throw around the term but what does "solutions-journalism" really mean? (Dylan Bush)
Many reporters become journalists because they want to drive change. But, how can they if they only report on problems?

At Bhekisisa we do a fair deal of solutions journalism. These stories go beyond listing solutions to a problem — they interrogate if solutions are working (or not) and how. 

Our Mia Malan talks to David Bornstein, co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) about why the practice is more Sherlock Holmes than Gossip Girl. 

Listen to their conversation

Have a hearing impairment? We've got you. Download the transcript here.

#ICYMI: You can find some of our solutions-based articles on the SJN Solutions Story Tracker. Our work features alongside 990 news outlets from 166 countries.
Think solutions journalism is about listing solutions to a problem? Think again. @dnbornstein breaks it down. Think solutions journalism is about listing solutions to a problem? Think again. @dnbornstein breaks it down.
Have 5 minutes? Take our short NHI survey.

Help us gauge public participation around the National Health Insurance, freely and anonymously.

If you’d like to add your voice, take five minutes to complete our 12-question survey. The survey also allows civil society members to upload their submissions to the NHI and whether or not they would like these to be made public.

While the survey is anonymous, we plan to analyse and publish the overall results on our website, and make the anonymous dataset available publically. Submissions marked for public consumption will be made available on our website as well as via The centre would like to thank our civil society reviewers who helped us draft and refine the survey questions

So add your voice to the nearly 100 members of civil society and the public who have chimed in with suggestions about how to make the road to an NHI a little better!

The deadline for input is 5 December
Click here to complete the survey
Help @Bhekisisa_MG gauge the quality of public participation around the National Health Insurance #NHI. Complete the five-minute survey here: Help @Bhekisisa_MG gauge the quality of public participation around the National Health Insurance #NHI. Complete the five-minute survey here:
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Opportunities from around the web:

TB advocacy training, Union Lung Health Conference, 1 November — Hyderabad

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is offering TB advocacy training for a limited number of people attending the Union Lung Health Conference on 1 November between 12 and 3pm. Please note spots are limited and participants must already be attending the conference and available for the full three hours of training.

To apply for a spot at the training, please fill out this form. Successful candidates will be contacted via email.


Panel discussion, Dullah Omar Institute & Human Rights Watch — Western Cape

The Dullah Omar Institute in partnership with Human Rights Watch will be hosting a panel discussion about human rights on the continent.

The panel will focus on the main human rights challenges across Africa and what efforts the South African government has taken, could have taken or should take in future to help defend and advance human rights across the continent.

Panelists include:

  • John Jeffery, Deputy Justice Minister of South Africa
  • Benyam Dawit Mezmur, head of the Children’s Rights Project at the University of the Western Cape, Vice-Chairperson of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and member of the United Nations (UN) Committee on the rights of children
  • Zainab Bangura, former UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict and former Minister of Health and Sanitation and Minister of Foreign Affairs in Sierra Leone
  • Nic Dawes, Deputy Executive Director of Human Rights Watch and Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism board member

The discussion will be moderated by Mausi Segun, Executive Director, Africa at Human Rights Watch.

Date: 6 November 2019
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: 1A and B, School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape

To RSVP, email Crystal Nitsckie at by 25 October 2019.

Meta-Research for Transforming Clinical Research, What should we change in the way we are doing research, 25 November 2019 — Paris

Organised by the Methods in Research on Research (MiRoR) consortium, this meeting will look at meta-research, for instance, within preclinical studies as well as opportunities for data sharing, including within the pharmaceutical industry.

Other subjects to be discussed include tools and strategies to increase the replicability of studies and new approaches to evaluate researchers. Registration is free, but seats are limited.

Click here to find out more

Strategic information adviser, UNAids — Johannesburg

UNAids seeks to appoint a strategic information adviser to be based in Johannesburg.

The adviser will work with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency to strengthen the integration of sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR), HIV and sexual gender-based violence services in East and Southern Africa. 

The adviser will provide technical support, establish integrated SRHR clinics with a task-shifting approach and standard curricula developed to train community healthcare workers to deliver services, among other duties.

The ideal candidate will have a degree in social or medical sciences, epidemiology and behavioural surveillance, public health and/or demography. Internal candidates must have at least nine years' experience, which will be considered an equivalent.

Deadline: 6 November
Find out more

Medical officer, Society for Family Health (SFH) — KwaZulu-Natal

The SFH, a South African affiliate of Population Services International (PSI) seeks to appoint a medical officer to be based in uMgungundlovu and Harry Gwala districts in KwaZulu-Natal on a fixed-term contract.

SFH concentrates on HIV issues and uses social marketing to motivate behavioural change regarding consistent condom use, HIV testing and other prevention behaviours.

The officer will be responsible for theatre operations, client medical screening, safety coordination, adverse events management and mobilising and outreach activities.

The successful candidate will have a bachelor of medicine, bachelor of surgery and experience in voluntary medical male circumcision. All candidates must be registered at the Health Professions Council of South Africa.

Deadline: 30 October
Find out more

Call for registration, International AIDS Conference — San Francisco and Oakland

Registration has been opened for the 23rd International AIDS Conference which will take place from 6 to 10 July 2020.

Next year's Aids Conference will mark the first time the world's largest conference on HIV and AIDS will be hosted in two neighbouring cities.

Conference registration has opened two months early to allow delegates more time to apply for visas.

Early registration ends on 15 January 2020. Group registration only applies to five or more people and the organisation requesting a group registration must nominate one group representative who will administer the group booking.

Media registration is free for eligible members of the media who will be attending in their capacity as journalists, photographers, videographers and community educators.

For more information about visa applications, click here.
To register, click here.

Advocacy officer, Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Task Force (Sweat) — Eastern Cape

The non-governmental organisation, Sweat, seeks to appoint an advocacy officer to be based in East London, Eastern Cape.

The officer will be responsible for advocacy and engagement with stakeholders and players in the district around the needs of sex workers and the programme's implementation. 

The successful candidate will have a social science degree with a minimum of two years' experience in lobbying, advocacy, human rights or HIV.

All candidates must have experience in sex work programming and conducting trainings. 

Deadline: 25 October
Find out more

Public lecture: Harnessing the Immune Response — To measles elimination and beyond, National Institute for Communicable Diseases — Johannesburg

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases will be hosting Melinda Suchard on 4 November at 5.30 pm as part of the Poliomyelitis Research Foundation's 14th James HS Gear Memorial Lecture. 

The talk will take place in the James Gear Auditorium.

RSVP by emailing Irma Latsky or contact them on 011 555 0395

Call for public comment, National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill — deadline extended

The Portfolio Committee on Health invites stakeholders and interested parties to submit written submissions on the NHI Bill now before 29 November.

The objective of the Bill is to achieve universal access to quality healthcare services in South Africa as per Section 27 of the Constitution. 

As part of this, the Bill sets up the creation of an NHI Fund and outlines its powers, functions and governance structures. The Fund will be used to strategically purchase healthcare services on behalf of citizens and certain categories of foreign nationals to ensure the equitable, effective and efficient utilisation of its resources.

Deadline: 29 November
Click here to submit your comment
For any inquiries email Vuyokazi Majalamba or call her on 021 403 3770 or 083 709 8522

PS ICYMI: Our recent story about the quality of public participation made some major waves. Now, we've created a survey to help put some numbers behind the narratives.

Take a couple of minutes to take our 12-question survey and help us gauge the level of public participation around the process and possible ways to improve it.

While the survey is anonymous, we'll publish the results on our website, at the end of the submission period. They will also be made available on We will not include submissions marked as private in the results.

A special thank you to our civil society reviewers who helped us draft the questions!

Call for Applications, Emerging Voices for Global Health (EV4GH)

Young health systems researchers are encouraged to apply for this mentorship programme. During the course of the programme, successful candidates will receive e-coaching as well as in-person training on topics such as scientific presentation, networking and communication. Fellows will then participate in the Sixth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research in Dubai in November 2020.

Deadline: 6 February 2020
Find out more 

Call for papers, BioMed Central (BMC)

Submissions are now open to contribute manuscripts to the following journals: BMC Public Health; Environmental Health; Environmental Sciences Europe; Globalization and HealthMicrobiome and One Health Outlook.

The theme across all journals is environmental justice. Papers should shed light on the contribution evidence-based research can give to develop better practices and policies towards stronger environmental justice.

Submissions can include but are not limited to research on air pollution, sewage management, water systems management, drinking water quality and pesticides.

Deadline: 1 November
Find out more

Call for abstracts, Health Systems Trust

Abstract submissions are now open for the 2020 edition of the South African Health Review (SAHR). The coming edition's theme is equitable healthcare for people with disabilities in South Africa.

The Health Systems Trust is seeking abstracts providing fresh insights into health systems strengthening efforts for equitable healthcare for persons with disabilities. Preference will be given to manuscripts that take into account the complexities and opportunities for developing and sustaining inclusive health systems, especially in the context of universal health coverage.

The review will represent an evidence base which can be used to strengthen health systems and services to inform future policy development in South Africa.

Deadline: 31 October
Find out more

Call for female experts in any field, Quote This Woman+ — Various locations

Quote This Woman+ is a project to establish an online database of women and non-binary experts to improve gender representation in sourcing among the media. During the election season alone, Quote This Woman+ fielded more than 500 calls from journalists wanting to increase the voices of women in the media.

Keen to be quoted? Submit your details to

Deadline: N/A
Find out more

Have something to say or an opportunity to share? Let us know. Email tip-offs, comments or story and opinion suggestions to 

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The Bhekisisa Team
Copyright © 2019 Bhekisisa Development Media NPC. All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism, Metal Box
25 Owl Street, 4th Floor, Braamfontein Werf, 2092, Johannesburg, South Africa

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