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Social media a key medium to reach women

A study conducted by NITI Aayog to assess social and behavioural change among beneficiaries of Centre’s key nutritional programme Poshan Abhiyan showed that forms of communication through WhatsApp and Facebook had recorded fastest growth in reaching women.

Updated: Mar 15, 2020 15:55 IST

By Amrita Madhukalya, Hindustan Times New Delhi

Voice messages recorded a 13 percentage point increase in reaching women in India between November 2018 and November 2019 from 26% to 39%. WhatsApp expanded its reach from 9% to 20% during this period (Reuters)

In some of India’s most malnourished districts, voice messages, WhatsApp, and Facebook are emerging as the key mediums to reach out to women to teach them about nutritional values.

A study conducted by NITI Aayog, to assess the social and behavioural change communications taken up by government to change habits in women beneficiaries of the Centre’s key nutritional programme Poshan Abhiyan, has shown that voice messages, WhatsApp and Facebook showed the largest growth in reach in the women.

Voice messages showed a 13 percentage point increase in reach among the women between November 2018 and November 2019 from 26% to 39%. WhatsApp expanded it’s reach from 9% to 20% in the same period and Facebook doubled its reach from 6% to 12%.

The private nature of communication over these fast-emerging platforms, and with a wider

mobile phone penetration is likely to be the reasons why women prefer to use these platforms.

WhatsApp and Facebook were unavailable for comment.

The study was conducted among 1,901 women in 16 of the countries 112 so-called aspirational districts; which are underdeveloped and are selected for a concerted government push to boos their level of development in 49 parameters. The findings of the survey, reviewed by HT, were presented to officials of the union ministry of women and child development in February.

The 16 districts were chosen from five states, and include Damoh, Singrauli, Barwani, Vidisha and Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh, Katihar, Begusarai, Sheikhpura, Araria, and Sitamarhi in Bihar, Chitrakoot, Balrampur, Bahraich and Sonbhadra in Uttar Pradesh, Baran in Rajasthan, and Nandurbar in Maharashtra.

Yet, interpersonal communications and government-aided community events -- such as the Centre’s community programme to disburse health services Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Day (VHSND), home visits by care workers and television programmes -- continued to reach the women the most in 2019. In 2019, the VHSND and home visits had a reach of 65% respectively, while television programmes reached out to 46% of the beneficiaries of these districts.

Despite the push, only 24% of the women remembered hearing about the importance of the first thousand days, which as per nutritional experts is crucial for a child’s health. Only a third of the women respondents, the study said, receive a diverse diet when pregnant and only 9% children in the age group of 6 to 23 months received an adequate diet.

Alok Kumar, adviser of health and nutrition at the NITI Aayog, said that the government carries out these surveys routinely to find out the progress, if any. “Since we started in 2018, there has been a substantial change in nutritional habits. Many of the beneficiaries do not know that small changes can go a long way,” he said.

The survey also showed that mothers-in-law were more responsive to receiving nutritional programming, while husbands continued to lag behind. However, positive changes were noted among the respondents on knowledge surrounding deworming or nutritious foods that prevents anemia, the intake of iron during pregnancy, breastfeeding a newborn within an hour of birth, the importance of handwash and the dangers of open defecation.


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