Local community engagement: A pilot project that promotes better understanding of diseases
Curtin University of Technology
School of Arts and Humanities / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications
Universities in Australia increasingly stress the need for tertiary teachers and researchers to engage more with their local communities. This research paper describes how this has worked with a pilot project in Western Australia (WA) that aims to empower people who live with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) or who work for HIV organisations, to be proactive and share their personal stories and experiences of HIV in the media. Research has shown that, if used effectively, the media can lessen fear and stigma of diseases like HIV, which are the biggest obstacles to seeking information and treatment about diseases. Participants completed media education and training sessions run by journalism staff at Edith Cowan University. This paper reflects on the overall process and initial outcomes. Also, the framework of community and media engagement that underpinned this pilot project has much broader applicability for other health promotion and disease prevention initiatives. This could include university journalism programs using their staff and resources to train people to share personal health stories in the media about more common diseases such as diabetes, drug addiction and depression.