Polio Eradication: Overview of Social Mobilization through Behavior Change Communication Mix and Interpersonal Communication in India

By Wasan, Parul Goyal | Journal of Services Research, April-September 2015 | Go to article overview

Polio Eradication: Overview of Social Mobilization through Behavior Change Communication Mix and Interpersonal Communication in India


Wasan, Parul Goyal, Journal of Services Research


INTRODUCTION

According to WHO Vaccine Preventable Diseases: Monitoring System 2012 Global Summary, India had only 1 case of Polio in the year 2011, as against 42 in 2010 (UNICEF, 2012). And then India was no longer a polio-endemic country. On Saturday, 25 February, 2012, India was officially struck off the list of polio-endemic countries by the World Health Organization (WHO), having gone more than one year without reporting any cases of wild poliovirus, (UNICEF, 2012).

This achievement, because of its interdisciplinary character, provided an excellent opportunity to understand the link between social psychology and consumer/target behavior. Both domains confirm that individual characteristics and the influence of the social environment effects one's way of life - including consumption/vaccination as well (Pikó, 2003).

As stated, eradicating polio was a difficult task to undertake and it came along with myriad problems. People believed that1.

Children suffered from polio, even after taking polio vaccine, and that these drops should not be taken if the child was sick during the pulse polio drive.

2. Polio drops caused more illnesses in children than before; and also that polio drops made their children more prone to illnesses (Governance Knowledge Centre, yr. n.a).

Additionally, a negative attitude and lack of understanding towards the pulse polio drops also precipitated non-compliance by the people. People also attributed fever, loose motions, death and infertility to polio drops, which they claimed were side-effects of the polio drops. (Chaturvedi, Dasgupta, et al., 2009). A 2003 report of UNICEF further highlighted the popular misconceptions regarding the vaccination in the Muslim community of India. People of this community believed that polio drops would sterilize their children and that it was part of the conspiracy to hurt their community and children. A feeling, which according to Adiga (2006), stemmed from a sense of alienation and frustration that the community felt due to being marginalized in all the development processes.

The seemingly herculean task of universal immunization, was however undertaken successfully through the deployment of a comprehensive range of approaches, from mass media to social mobilization through interpersonal communication to garner public support.

Although a lot has been written about the technicalities and process of the pulse polio campaign, not much has been said about various theories and the communication mix that were used during the campaign. Additionally very little effort has been made to understand- A) behavior change during the campaign, and B) different communication theories at interpersonal stage of campaign.

It is against this back drop an attempt is made to highlight the theoretical underpinnings of the Pulse polio campaign in India

This article is an attempt to understand the pulse polio campaign, involving the frontline workers, celebrities and the targeted populace, against various communication and behavioral theories that formed the part of Behavior Change Communication mix across disciplines.

The article is divided into the following sections, background, identification of the theoretical aspects and conclusion in order to understand the transformation of a purely service delivery programme which integrated components of an the evidence-based communication entity.

BACKGROUND

A lot has been written about the pulse polio by many experts from the social and medical perspective. It can be stated with certainty that Polio is an incurable disease. It is caused by a viral infection. It usually spreads through contaminated food and water. This disease often affects young children, and may cause paralyses of one or more limbs for life. Prevention is the only solution for the disease. Repeated vaccination increases the capacity of children to resist this disease.

Experts have highlighted polio episodes in Egyptian and Roman history. …

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