By Asante, R.K.O; Hammond, E.K.; Manu, A and Soyiri, I.N.

The print media often claim to play a vital role of informing and educating the public about health issues.

Purpose of the study
This research was a preliminary one to explore health news reporting. It was to find out what exactly the local print media report on and the magnitude of reportage. The objective was to reveal whether some issues are given more attention than others and if this was the case, then a qualitative study including content analysis would be done to find out why this is so and whether the media reports well on issues. The hypothesis for is that: journalists report on what happens around them so the most frequent reports on some categories of issues suggest what areas are problematic and need attention.

A thousand, three hundred and six (1,306) health articles in the weekday edition of the Daily Graphic and Ghanaian Times were reviewed by first reading all headlines and picking the health related ones. These were further read to be sure they were health news. The headlines were categorised and typed in Microsoft word. There were nine categories: Reproductive Health, General Diseases, Accidents, Food & Nutrition, Healthcare Financing, Human Resource, Environmental Health, Medical Outreach, and Other Health Issues. These had sub-categories. These headlines were then numbered according to categories and sub-categories indicating dates of publication and page numbers. This was then entered in Microsoft Excel with their frequencies. The articles covered the period January to June, 2005. Percentages were calculated for the various categories and subcategories.

Results showed that from January to June, 2005, the Daily Graphic and Ghanaian Times collectively reported more on Environmental Health and Reproductive Heath issues constituting 24% and 23% respectively. The least reportage was on Medical Outreach (1%). HIV/AIDS & STIs issues constituted 53% of the reproductive health news for the period, with HIV/AIDS being the main issues (over 95%) of the HIV/AIDS & STIs sub-category. The most reported cases on Healthcare Financing were Donations to Health Institutions (39%) and NHIS & Direct Financing (38%). Report on Water and Sanitation constitutes 77% of Environmental Health issues.

Since journalists report on what happens around them, it is probable that there were more Reproductive and Environmental health-related problems or activities for the period; and less on Medical Outreach.

This research provided the baseline information for further research to finding out why journalist are reporting more on some issues than others; whether the media reports well on health issues; whether journalists and health experts co-operate when it comes to health news reporting; whether the general public usually read health articles and reports in the local news papers; and whether the general public really understand what they read, or get the message journalists try to put across.