The global health fact-checking initiative grows stronger with 53 health experts from 24 countries.
By Aliya Zainab
In a world where information is readily available at our fingertips, health misinformation and unscientific narratives have become rampant. This poses a significant threat to public health, as we witnessed recently during the pandemic.
First Check, the pioneering health fact-checking initiative by DataLEADS and a verified signatory of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), has been at the forefront of battling this challenge. With the recent addition of four new members, the First Check network now comprises 53 medical professionals, researchers, journalists, and technologists from across the world.
The network includes experts from 24 countries – Australia, Bangladesh, Chad, China, Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Nepal, Nigeria, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Singapore, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Yemen and Zimbabwe – working together to combat health misinformation.
Meet the new members of the First Check team of experts:
1. Walter Balane
Associate Professor, Bukidnon State University, Philippines
Walter Balane worked as a full-time community journalist for over a decade, covering various topics such as peace processes, indigenous peoples’ issues, good governance, and small and medium enterprises. He holds a Master of Arts in Journalism from Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines and is pursuing a PhD at the University of the Philippines. Walter is a member of various organisations, including the Mindanao Institute of Journalism and the Association of Development Communication Educators and Practitioners-Philippines.
2. Mridula Kapil Bhargava
Public Health Consultant & Founder of Diabetes Fighters’ Trust, India
Mridula Kapil Bhargava is a Hadassah Hebrew University alumna with over a decade of work experience in healthcare and development. She holds a post-graduate degree in Nano-Biotechnology and a graduate degree in Biotechnology. She works as a public health consultant with multiple organisations in the field of non-communicable diseases, using the concept of community ownership for prevention and management of Diabetes in urban and rural India.
3. Arulchelvan Sriram
Professor, Anna University, India
Arulchelvan Sriram is a respected media and communication researcher with a strong academic background in journalism and health communication. He has extensive expertise in media literacy, fact-checking, and training programmes. He has organised more than 30 seminars and faculty development programmes on various media topics and has successfully guided 14 Ph.D. scholars. Currently, he is the Director for Educational Multimedia Research Centre (EMRC) at Anna University, Chennai.
4. Dr Anam Bilal Shayiq
Dentist and Public health professional, United Arab Emirates
Dr Anam Shayiq works as a dental surgeon as well as a public health professional, providing her with a unique perspective on healthcare. Her expertise includes medical writing, data collection, and research, which has resulted in several publications in respected journals. Dr Anam is committed to community service, volunteering with multiple organisations to make a positive impact on society. Her dedication and skills make her a valuable asset in the medical field.
The steady expansion of the First Check network, since its inception in 2019, signifies the growing recognition of the importance of health fact-checking and collaboration across borders. As the world continues to recover from the ongoing pandemic, the need for reliable and accurate health information has never been more critical. First Check’s efforts to combat health misinformation and promote evidence-based reporting are not only important, but essential in this digital age.
First Check demonstrates the power of collaboration and determination towards a common goal. With each new member, the network grows stronger and more diverse, representing different regions, cultures, and perspectives.