News Analysis

The ways in which the media report issues of global health is changing quickly in our rapidly expanding technological world. In 2010, newsrooms were 30% smaller than they were in 2000 due to the high number of layoffs the industry has faced in the past decade (Rosentiel and Mitchell, 2011). In March of 2010, Mashable reported that US-Americans are getting more news from the internet than any other news source (O’Dell, 2011).

This section will examine how social media, photoblogs, billboards, and comics are used by local and foreign news providers to educate the public about polio in Pakistan and eradication efforts.

Social Media: Facebook and Twitter

Social media sites are hugely popular in the United States with an estimated 750,000,000 individuals visiting Facebook every month (eBizMBA, 2012).

Facebook is widely used by health organizations, some of which are fighting polio in Pakistan. Make Pakistan Polio Free is a group on Facebook that brings people together who are interested in eradicating polio from Pakistan. They have attracted 820 members as of 10 April 2012, any of whom may publicly post on their wall. Members post semi-regularly on a variety of topics including fundraisers, news articles, or relative blog posts. This group is effectively a forum for news and medial updates relative to polio in Pakistan.

The Pakistan Chapter of End Polio Now has 74 fans on 10 April 2012. They use their page to alert fans to new photos, events, international holidays such as World Rotary Day on February 23 and World Polio Day on October 24, and political events related to polio. They are part of the larger nonprofit organization, End Polio Now, that uses its facebook to fundraise. End Polio Now has over 13,000 likes gives it access to a much greater number of facebook users and interested individuals.

Twitter, another social networking site that allows its users to update their status and ‘tag’ their posts according to subject matter, boasts 250,000,000 individual visitors every month (eBizMBA, 2012).

On Global Health Hub’s twitter account, one can see all of Global Health Hub’s posts. On 15 March 2010, they posted “Polio transmission continues on Pakistan-Afghanistan border #globalhealth.” By going to the website included in the post, you can see a one sentence update of polio in Pakistan, “Pakistani virologists have mapped the genetic structure of polioviruses along the violent Afghan-Pakistan border” (, 2012). This simple post alerts readers to scientific advancements being made along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Global Health Hub’s twitter account, therefore, provides short and informative updates to those who follow them.

UNICEF Pakistan used Twitter to alert residents about vaccination campaigns. On March 14, 2012, they tweeted

By tagging #pakistan and #polio, UNICEF had their post show up on both respective feeds. The post was also “retweeted” seven times, meaning seven people reposted the update.

UNICEF Pakistan also tweeted on March 12, 2012:

on 12 March 2012. Four people retweeted the post, therefore increasing the number of people who would see it. UNICEF Pakistan used Twitter to educate people about the only method of preventing polio: vaccination. In addition to providing news, social media sites can provide important and lifesaving information.


If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a photoblog worth?, a US based news source with a largely US-American audience, uses photojournalism to spark conversations. On March 12, 2012, the news source published a photo essay containing three pictures from anti-polio campaigns in Pakistan. They are shown below with their respective captions.

“A Pakistani health worker marks an infant after immunization with anti-polio drops in Lahore, Pakistan on March 12. Pakistani officials vow to eradicate polio by the end of 2012. Polio remains endemic in four countries – Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.”

Click here for analysis.

“Residents living in the suburbs of Lahore, Pakistan carry their children to have polio drops administered to them on Monday, March 12. Pakistani officials vow to eradicate polio by the end of 2012. Polio remains endemic in four countries – Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan”

Click here for analysis.

“A woman holds her child as she waits for a polio vaccination in Peshawar, Pakistan, on March 12. Reports state that polio cases over last month has taken the country's total number of poliomyelitis-affected children to five in 2012, officials said. Most of the 198 cases recorded in 2011 were notified in the north western part of the country where local religious clerics and pro-Taliban lobby are reportedly trying to convince residents that the US-manufactured polio drops were designed to sterilize Pakistanis and reduce the Muslim population.”

Click here for analysis.

Between its publication in March 2012 and April 19 of the same year, this particular photoblog was recommended by eight people on facebook and tweeted about on Twitter by 26. MSNBC’s users shared visual publications they appreciated and found worthy through social media, extending the community exposed to them.

On July 6, 2011, MSNBC published a single photo on its photoblog site that also addresses polio in Pakistan.

“A Pakistani man wheels a child, Jamshid, 8, who suffers from polio on the outskirts of the capital Islamabad on July 6, 2011. According to the World Health organization (WHO) Pakistan tops the list of four countries where the polio disease still exists despite the global campaign to get rid of it. The other three countries are Nigeria, India and Afghanistan. Pakistan has been declared "polio endemic state" as 57 more polio cases were reported between January 2011 to June 2011.”

Click here for analysis.

By 19 April 2012, the photo was recommended by 90 individuals on facebook and was tweeted about by 26 people on Twitter. It was shared through other means such as email, stumbleupon, digg, etc. by an additional three people, extending the viewership of the original publication.

Immunization Action Coalition (2012) is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit based in Minnesota. Their mission statement is “to increase immunization rates and prevent disease by creating and distributing educational materials for health professionals and the public that enhance the delivery of safe and effective immunization services. The Coalition also facilitates communication about the safety, efficacy, and use of vaccines within the broad immunization community of patients, parents, health care organizations, and government health agencies.”

The organization featured vaccination campaigns in Pakistan through a photoblog consisting of nine photos and short captions. Click here for a summary and analysis of photos and captions.

Public Campaigns: Billboards

The following picture of a billboard was taken outside Avari Hotel in Karachi, Pakistan. Those who see the billboard are alerted to the issue of polio in Pakistan and the rights of children to be polio-free. It also lets residents know when immunizations will take place. This billboard shows that the sponsoring organizations, listed at the bottom, are fighting polio and that it is parents’ responsibility to give their child a polio-free life.


Sovereign Pakistan, an online blog published in both English and Arabic, posted the following comics.

Click here for an analysis of the cartoon pictured above.

The following comic was drawn by the same cartoonist.

What do you think the artist is implying through this comic? Compare the size and location of the two figures, as well as the physical relationship between the two. Why is the health department worker reacting the way he is to the health worker’s kick?

By creating one picture with limited words, the artist is able to convey political commentary on the anti-polio campaign and those involved. The reader was able to learn about some of the issues in the campaign and the artist’s position by simply looking at a drawing. For those short on time, comics can be a great way to learn about the issues and opinions of those who may be more informed.


The following chart compares the three main categories covered in this section: social media in Pakistan, social media by foreign sources, and foreign photoblogs. The “Where” and “What” columns are pulled from the sources themselves while the “Effects” column is our own analysis of the effects of the different coverage.

See the Anthropological Analysis page for further discussion and comparison to Svea Closser’s findings.