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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

  

TB Challenge: Partnering to Eliminate TB
in African Americans

Maximizing Radio to Set the Tone: An Effective and Efficient Mechanism for Public Health Messages

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 of artists.

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 listener?

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 it serves.

GBG:  That's wonderful that the listeners can actively set the agenda.

PB:  Absolutely.  We provide access to the media for folks we serve who might be denied access to the mainstream media outlets otherwise.

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 community.

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 the airways.

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. 

 


Released October 2008
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Division of Tuberculosis Elimination - http://www.cdc.gov/tb

Please send comments/suggestions/requests to: hsttbwebteam@cdc.gov, or to
CDC/Division of Tuberculosis Elimination
Communications, Education, and Behavioral Studies Branch
1600 Clifton Rd., NE - Mailstop E-10, Atlanta, GA 30333