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Development implies progressive improvement in the living conditions and quality of life of individuals, community and society. Develop...

Health and Development-Support Communication

Development implies progressive improvement in the living conditions and quality of life of individuals, community and society. Development in one sphere of life leads to development in other spheres. Thus, no distinction can be drawn between economic, social and health development. Economic development is an instrument to achieve social development which, in turn, is necessary to achieve economic development. The purpose of development is to prepare people to lead economically productive and socially satisfying lives. However, social satisfaction and economic productivity are perceived in different ways in different societies. Everywhere, people strive to increase their earnings, leading to an increase in the purchasing power, which enables them to get for themselves and their children better and sufficient food, housing, better education, better opportunities of leisure, and, most important of all, better health. Unless people have a healthful living, they can not enjoy the other benefits of life. Therefore, health development is essential for social and economic development. This is the reason why activities attempting to improve health and socio-economic situation should be regarded as mutually complementary to each other rather than competitive. It is an academic debate, whether health development only consumes resources, or whether it is an economically productive factor contributing to the overall development. For instance, the control of certain communicable diseases often helps to promote development in general. Proper nutrition and reduction of sickness increase the productivi~ of work. Breaking the vicious circle of malnutrition and infection leads to improvement of physical and mental development of the child. Vaccinating an entire child population against diseases brings a reduction in child mortality, which can induce a feeling to have a small family. Further, by drawing on untapped resources - men, finance and material for health development - one can contribute to the awakening of social interest, which is very important for mobilizing people's efforts for development in social and economic fields.

Health Communication
Realizing the complexity of health behaviour, which, in the case of Indian society, is largely guided by informal but deep-rooted socio-cultural values, the country has adopted such measures which help the people to keep themselves healthy. Thus, the process of the motivation of the people is attempted through the mass media and interpersonal communication, based on development-support strategy. The mass media and other communication channels have a tremendous effect on every sphere of human life, but we have to accept that its impact is not uniform in all fields, nor can it be predicted universally. Those WIG hold the view, that mass media is uniformly effective in economic, agricultural, political or health fields, have reasoning based on the theory of the effort of opinion-leaders. It has been found that the opinion leaders are comparatively more effective in changing the non-health behaviour of an individual. The concept of the two-step flow of communication simply implies that the opinion leaders take the basic message, translate it into personal terms, and feed the same to their influence network in ways that are acceptable and understandable to the target audience. But we observe that their influences in changing health behaviour are limited. We have evidence that the big landlords were the first to accept changes in the agricultural process and production but not in health including family planning. Not all opinion leaders can influence everyone, but their influence is within relatively restricted spheres. The opinion leaders generally specialise in some fields. For example, a progressive agriculturist, who is influential in agriculture, is not likely to exploit this single trait that would predispose him to opinion leaders in all rural fields. Most of the studies suggest that the mass media tend to serve as a reinforcing agent than as producers of massive changes in attitude.

DSC and Health Behaviour
Looking into the limited role of mass communication in the changing health behaviour, one can think of interpersonal communication, which, in the context of the complexity of health behaviour assumes greater significance. In this communication, word-of-mouth and personal communication from a trusted source are significantly more effective than mass communication from a remote source, however prestigious that source might be. Innumerable studies have established more credibility in interpersonal communication than mass communication.

Health and development support communication are closely interlinked and mutually interdependent. In a country like India, a DSC strategy needs to be developed in a manner that can cater to the needs of the diverse groups based on social and cultural background. Merely by transferring health information to the people through mass communication alone will not bring health development. The goal of achieving health behaviour change should be a central point of the DSC strategy, and it needs to be operated in that spirit. The health communicator should, therefore, pursue the following activities if he aims to achieve behavioural change:
  • Assess the needs of the community or different target groups
  • Assess the local resources available to meet these needs
  • Assess the areas of likes and dislikes of the people towards different types of communication
  • Generate need for the programme
  • Provide scientific, specific and basic information to the policy-makers and decision-makers
In the new situation, where the role of an agent is not that of a transmitter of knowledge, he has to widen the boundaries of his roles, thus performing a role of social activist or the change agent. He cannot afford to ignore the forces that either integrate or disintegrate the community.

These slides throw light on various development support communication programs related to health in India, have a look:

Mass communication on health and family welfare from Dr J Balamurugan PhD

(Reddy, D.Narnsimha; Sridhara, B.A.; Rao, B.S.S; Rahim, Abdur)