Using Technology to Communicate Health in Rural Areas – Jammu Kashmir Latest News | Tourism
Dr Ravia Gupta
Distrust of the medical system is on the rise and this has become evident due to COVID. Reports suggest that due to low health literacy in India, it will be difficult to achieve even half of the targets set for Sustainable Development Goal 3 – Good health and well-being for all.
According to Amartya Sen, social facilities should provide opportunities to increase people’s well-being. Sen’s idea of ”development as freedom” suggests that human development is possible by expanding people’s capabilities and giving them access and opportunities to things they can enjoy.
In a study conducted to observe the health literacy score of patients, it was found that most of them did not understand health care information such as consent form, dietary advice or even surveys , etc The study further suggested that doctors and nurses need to educate patients. to better understand especially difficult medical terms. Health literacy can help build people’s abilities to access, process and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions.
The Indian Science Communication Congress (ISCC) report reveals that there is a communication gap between the scientific community and the popular masses that needs to be bridged. In an age of technical revolution, scientific temperament and rational belief are most needed. Health literacy is a bridge between literacy and an individual’s ability in the context of health. Thus, attention should be paid to two important aspects – communication and health literacy. As they are both linked and can help bridge the existing gap. The reason for less progress in the field of health communication is due to the lack of sufficient funds and enormous pressure to show results.
Understanding health communication
Health communication connects the field of communication and health to improve personal and public health. It is the communication process that applies communication strategies to disseminate information to the target audience. The goal of health communication is to influence the knowledge, attitudes and beliefs of the target audience in order to motivate them to adopt healthy behavior. The National Cancer Institute and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention define health communication as the use of communication strategies to inform and influence individual and community decisions that improve health. The role played by health communication in mitigating health risks as well as improving overall health status is also emphasized by institutions such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization health and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Communication specialists like Melvin De Fleur and Sandra Ball-Rokeach in 1976 studied the psychological and social factors that prevented the media from exercising control over the public. According to them, there are three important needs: to belong to the society, to understand the society and to follow the society, which increases our dependence on the media. Because of this dependency, the media enjoys certain powers. Wallace (1999) suggested that new technologies define the way people acquire knowledge, think, react, feel and behave, which has an impact on society and culture. Today, social media and their users have become central players in the production and dissemination of information. Social media can be used as a tool to create health awareness across communities.
Another communication researcher, Everett Rogers (1983), classified individuals according to their tendency to explore new innovations. Diffusion studies in the Indian context show the importance of developing an understanding of social systems with the adoption of technology. The research results show that besides the political and institutional factors supporting the technology, there are other socio-economic factors that decide the adoption of the technology, such as status, age, gender, caste, religion and education. Lack of understanding of the social system can be a barrier to effective technology adoption. Access to new ideas and practices can lead to changes at the social, institutional and even individual level. Diffusion of innovation not only helps a society to have better adoption, but it also helps predict the future of a society.
Need in the Indian context
According to the expert committee report on tribal health, India has more than 104 million tribal population (8.6% of its population) spread over 705 tribes. Data shows that even after several years of independence from India, tribal people suffer from inequalities in health care compared to others. Closing this gap will be a stepping stone towards the goal of sustainable development. Communication is the nervous system of any society. It can play an important role in facilitating social change and thus improving the quality of life. Health literacy is less studied in the Indian context. However, few studies conducted in this field in the past indicate low level of health literacy, especially disease-specific literacy in rural and tribal areas of India. There are many factors that cause low health literacy in India and among them poverty is at the top. People from minority sections are prone to chronic diseases due to limited access to education, better medical facilities and other socio-economic barriers. Inclusive health communication can contribute to health equity and societal well-being.
Importance of communication for public health
Health literacy is necessary for better use of health care resources. Poor judgment due to lack of information can have detrimental effects on the health and well-being of individuals.
The literature suggests that communication in healthcare is an important aspect. For a long time, communication and information have been considered common sense by both the public and policy makers. Due to the emergence of modern medicine, communication was mostly informal. Information about traditional medicine was communicated through the main means of communication and revolved around the use of natural ingredients. Intergenerational communication was the next step in which critical information was passed on to the immediate heirs within the clan, followed by a talk about medicine by a certified doctor, and then people trusted the treatment and the doctor. During this period, communication between doctor and patient was considered a greater healer than medicine. Doctors with greater communication skills along with their medical techniques gained goodwill and also became famous.
Changing trends in health communication
Health communication has undergone various evolutions. In 2003, Piotrow and others studied the changes in health communication and divided them into 4 different stages – (1) the era of the clinic focused on the availability of products or services. The target audience was aware of the availability of the service or product and used it. This approach was seen as passive, (2) the field era involved IEC (information, communication and education) programs by outreach workers and communities. Radio broadcasts, posters, leaflets and mobile units have been designed and applied to disseminate information on health issues. This era was criticized for not using multimedia strategies, program planners had insufficient knowledge of the communication needs of the target audience and had limited evaluation strategies, (3) the era of social marketing applied the techniques commercial marketing to analyze, plan, execute and evaluate health programs. The lack of community participation and viewing beneficiaries as mere consumers paved the way for change, (4) strategic behavior change and the era of communication used behavioral science models and emphasized the need to motivate people to adopt healthy behavior. Social norms and political environments have been modified to bring about change at the individual and social level.
Channels and challenges ahead
The new era of strategic health communication is characterized by the integration of various communication channels such as mass media, interpersonal channels, community channels, and target audience segmentation. Communication channels are important for successful communication. Different communication vehicles such as mass media, interpersonal communication and counseling can be used. A health communication approach alone cannot replace people’s access to health services. Issues such as gender, socio-economic status, literacy rate, media reach, media environment, reliability of information and enabling political environment are also needed. Information, education, communication and motivation not only by the government but also by the active participation of the people are perhaps the need of the hour.