When people fall ill, it can be a strain on friends and family, who often have to set aside their work time and rally around the sick.
But most of the time, the comfort of loved ones isn’t enough to cure an illness. In most cases where a serious illness leads to death, it’s because the disease wasn’t identified early enough.
Ignorance surrounding the importance of early testing for diseases has caused many people a lot of suffering. Often, patients slip into coma and die without ever having found out what’s wrong with them.
People find themselves arriving at hospital for help when it’s too late for the disease to be treated, and often die shortly after seeing a doctor.
Early and comprehensive testing for diseases can help prevent such tragedies. And good eating habits and regular exercise can help ward off disease altogether.
The ministry of Health has considered the media as a major source of communication to the public, and the ministry has held several workshops where it has provided journalists with health tips to disseminate to the public.
Recently at the Rwanda Press House, Dr Emmanuel Musabeyezu held a forum to sensitise the public about health issues. He said the public suffers because of ignorance about health living standards.
“Many people - especially the rich - believe that overeating and driving cars without doing sports and controlling their eating habits is the way to a happy living. With this, they don’t know that they are silently killing themselves,” said Musabeyezu.
The doctor encouraged people to involve themselves in early testing for diseases so they don’t find themselves rushing to hospital, too sick to be cured. Musabeyezu added that early testing prevents complications that lead to operations and surgery.
Musabayezu urged people who suspect that they may have cancer to go for testing, especially now because there is a cancer expert from Cuba working here in Rwanda.
The doctor called on the media to gather accurate information about health conditions in the country and bring information about diseases and their treatment to the public.
He said rumours and misinformation should be avoided because they don’t profit the people and they should not divert the focus of prevention measures. He emphasized that only accredited doctors can give accurate medical information.
François Gishoma, president of La fédération Rwandaise des Diabétiques, spoke about the dangers of diabetes, which has no cure. He said it’s important to identify diabetes early so it can be effectively treated.
Gishoma said that the contraction of newer, emerging diseases can be prevented if people are careful to monitor their health.
He singled out obesity, teeth-related diseases, asthma, allergic rhinitis, and hypertension as conditions that can be avoided through exercise and careful eating. Gishoma also urged reporters to pay more attention to health issues in general so as to sensitize the listeners.
Ines Mpambara, the director of the Health Communications Centre, organises workshops for journalists so as to equip them with basic knowledge on health issues.
The workshops help strengthen the health literacy of reporters and better equip them to produce knowledgeable and accurate work because they act as an ear and mouth piece to the public.
The health conferences usually last from one to four days and include presentations by doctors, gynaecologists and specialists from different hospitals in the country.
Louise Batamuliza of Radio Maria said she appreciated the workshop she attended. She learned about different types of cancer, and hoped to use her radio shows to teach the public about their causes.
Julian Mahoro Niyingabira of Radio Salus said he learned a lot about women’s health issues and proper family planning. He said he’s anxious to tell people how to maintain good health especially in the rural areas. He said health is important because without a population in good health, development can’t take place.
For Didas Niyifasha of Radio Flash, it’s high time people learnt how to protect themselves from disease, because many people are in fact dying of ignorance. Emmanuel Uwimana of Orinfor echoed Niyifasha’s comment.
“People should wake up and get to know their health status especially on HIV, cancer, diabetes and other related diseases” he said.