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Communication is a determinant of public health: a media campaign for tobacco control in India

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 17 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6275
  1. Chitra Subramaniam Duella, journalist and author, CSDconsulting, Chemin de la Dôle 1, Gland, Switzerland
  1. chitras{at}

An online platform for discussion of tobacco use in India provided a model for how health advocates might harness journalism to promote better health literacy, writes Chitra Subramaniam Duella

Journalists are key contributors to health literacy—that is, people’s ability to access, assess, and use information for health. Poor health literacy leads to poor health choices, more illnesses, higher health costs, and death.1 Journalists’ training rarely focuses on public health, and public health training programmes and systems give low priority to the role of journalists as public health educators.

This gap is evident in the reporting of non-communicable diseases, and it urgently needs to be closed in India, where, in a country of 1.2 billion people, deaths from non-communicable diseases account for 53% of all deaths.2

If current trends continue, the death toll from cancers, strokes, cardiovascular diseases, and mental illness will increase by 17% in the next decade, with poor and disadvantaged populations disproportionately affected.3

International health goals, whether set by the United Nations, the World Bank, or multilateral or bilateral agencies, will not be met if India does not take urgent and corrective steps. The World Health Organization and others attribute failure so far to the aggressive global …

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