TB Challenge: Partnering to Eliminate TB
in African Americans
Maximizing Radio to Set
the Tone: An Effective and Efficient Mechanism for Public Health
Gail Burns-Grant, Public
Health Advisor, DTBE/FSEB
Philip Baptiste, M.Ed., is currently a project manager with the
CDC/DTBE Information Technology and Statistics Branch (ITSB). Philip
began his public health career with CDC in 1989 and was assigned
to various health departments as a public health advisor in Sexually
Transmitted Disease programs in Georgia,
North Carolina, and Missouri before his assignment to CDC headquarters in 1997.
Gail Burns-Grant (GBG): Philip, in addition to what you
currently do in ITSB, we hear that you are a radio talk show host.
Can you tell us a little about this?
Philip Baptiste (PB): Of course. I am a volunteer air shifter
on a community-based radio station in Atlanta. I produce, engineer, and host a segment
that features jazz music, commentary, and interviews with a variety
GBG: How long have you been hosting this show?
PB: I've been hosting the show for just over 3 years.
GBG: Are African Americans a segment of your listeners?
PB: Yes, and I receive their direct feedback when they call
in to the show.
GBG: What is the average age of your listeners?
PB: I'd say the average age range of my listening audience
is between 40 and 55 years of age; however, my station captures
all ages based on the programming schedule.
GBG: What has been the overall response from listeners
regarding health messages designed to reach the African-American
PB: It has, in my opinion, been very positive. For a while
I teamed up with a physician to do a weekly program called Health
Matters where we discussed a variety of health challenges facing
the African-American community, such as cardiovascular disease,
HIV/AIDS, and hypertension. While we did not have a TB expert on
the show, we did touch on this disease. You can't talk about HIV
without discussing TB and vice versa. I would say that we had a
decent response, but if we had the luxury of time and resources,
I do believe we could have improved our message to the community.
GBG: In your opinion, is radio underutilized in disseminating
health messages, advocating behavior change, stimulating dialogue,
and raising consciousness in the African-American community?
PB: Yes, I do think that. While all radio stations are
supported by their listening audience, most mainstream radio stations
are profit driven. On the other hand, community radio is essentially
a non-profit enterprise, with programming designed by the community
to improve social conditions and the quality of life for the community
GBG: That's wonderful that the listeners can actively set
PB: Absolutely. We provide access to the media for folks
we serve who might be denied access to the mainstream media outlets
GBG: Offering an alternative, so to speak.
PB: That's right.
GBG: I guess this alternative to mainstream media—one that
does not rely on profit to exist—often has more flexibility in tailoring
messages for a specific segment of the population like African Americans,
whereas mainstream media messages are dictated. Philip, what is
your thinking on this?
PB: If African Americans are able to actively participate
in the management of the broadcast medium and have a say in the
scheduling and content of the programs, then we will have a segment
focus. However, in these days of highly commercialized broadcasting,
if the broadcast medium is actually owned and managed by another
entity, then their primary responsibility is to the advertiser and
not necessarily the community. In this instance, the broadcast medium
might not be as effective in raising the consciousness of the African-American
GBG: Money can certainly set the tone. Philip, I'm delighted
to learn that you are not only the host, but the producer of your
radio show. On another note, in the state of South Carolina, where
CDC funds a demonstration project to intensify efforts to reduce
TB rates in African-American communities, it was learned during
focus groups with men that one reason they do not access public
health clinics is because when they do visit a health department
for care, they do not feel there is a focus on their health. These
men stated that most public health services, billboards, pamphlets,
and other materials cater to women (seeking maternal and child health
service). In addition, they discussed the stigma associated with
visiting a public health clinic; it is perceived that the only reason
for their visiting the clinic is for STD testing and treatment.
Philip, my question is, when these issues come to our attention,
can radio be an effective tool to begin the dialogue and discussions
in the community? Can radio help to bring about change in health
attitudes and beliefs, and address the stigma and dispel myths about
diseases such as TB?
PB: Most definitely. For example, if there is an issue in
the community, radio should have a role in working with the population
it serves. Radio producers can create programs which place an emphasis
on specific health issues and concerns from this and other projects.
GBG: So you would encourage a partnership between public
health and the media to get health information out to the community,
particularly those who listen to the radio and may not read a pamphlet
or newspaper, or tune in to watch a news broadcast?
PB: Yes. The partnership is not traditional, but is essential.
Let me say that radio is accessible and inexpensive. All you have
to do is buy one, turn it on, find the station you desire to listen
to, and there you have it. You don't have to pay monthly subscriber
fees, or technical connections, or special hookups: it's just there.
If public health is to be effective in getting the word out to the
community—informing the community and assisting in facilitating
change—people need to know the messenger. If it is a health initiative,
there has to be a certain level of understanding, trust, and knowledge
about the subject from the source providing that information over
GBG: I think that is important for our readers to know.
Philip, give us your call letters and the day and time that your
show airs, so that folks who live in or are visiting the Metro Atlanta
area can tune into your show.
PB: If you're in Atlanta, tune in to WRFG 89.3 on the FM dial every Monday night from
9:00 to 11:00 p.m.
GBG: Thank you, and we'll be sure to tune in.