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Public Health Projects to Use Citizen Media to Empower Community Voices

Rising Voices and Open Society Institute's Health Media Initiative are happy to announce the six newest health-focused citizen media outreach projects. We received over 110 proposals from health activists and organizations based in over 50 different countries. The six selected grantees represent the most innovative applications of citizen media tools like blogs, podcasts, and online video to help further the advocacy goals of public health organizations, and to empower the communities they work with.

In Brasov, Romania, the Casa Sperantei hospice center will train its nurses, doctors, and staff how to use audio and video recording equipment to share the direct stories of patients with life-threatening illnesses. The center's staff will also take advantage of their online media training and interactive website to explain the objectives, successes, and challenges in palliative care, which focuses on improving end-of-life care for patients and their families, with a special focus on vulnerable populations including the elderly, children, and patients with cancer or HIV/AIDS.

In the township of Kwa Mashu, on the outskirts of Durban, South Africa, the Kwa Mashu Community Advancement Project (K-CAP) will use its Ekhaya Imagination Lab to train 20 new citizen journalists from within the township how to report on local stories related to local health issues affecting the community. In 1998 Gugu Dlamini was stoned to death in Kwa Mashu after publicly declaring her positive HIV status. The twenty citizen journalists trained at K-CAP will aim to counter such severe stigma to HIV and AIDS while also bringing local health issues to an international audience.

Pavel Kutsev of the Drop-in Center will use blog posts, photos, podcasts, and online video to share his experiences working at a harm reduction facility based in Kyiv, Ukraine. The blog will open a window to the daily reality of drug users and describe how that reality affects public health throughout the country.

The Orizonturi Foundation in Campulung Moldovenesc, Romania will create a blogging club for mental health service users which trains them how to maintain a weblog, upload videos to online sharing sites, and use social networks. The technical skills will enable the participants to share their own stories and forge their own online identities.

In Brazzaville, Congo the AZUR Development organization, as part of its AIDS Network Africa initiative, will “train communication officers of local AIDS organizations in digital story telling, podcasting, and the creation of blogs to document the stigma and discrimination of people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS in Congo in order to use them as a tool for advocacy, education, and the promotion rights of people infected with HIV.” Each communication officer will describe how the AIDS pandemic is currently affecting the local community where he or she works and what daily life is like for people living with HIV and AIDS.

Last, but not least, the FrontAIDS project based in St. Petersburg, Russia will use citizen media to monitor accessibility to treatment for people living with HIV, AIDS, hepatitis, and TB in 20 regions around Russia. The interactive blog-based site will become a an aggregator and go-to resource of citizen media information related to health issues around Russia.

The six projects are diverse in their geography and their strategic approach, but they all share a desire to train health activists to use new media in order spread awareness about their work and the communities they serve.

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