Advisory Committee Meeting
Advisory Committee Meeting

7 November 2016, Kotagiri: The Advisory Committee of Radio Kotagiri’s project on “Science for Women’s Health and Nutrition” met for the first time today in Kotagiri at the Keystone Campus. The committee comprises medical and nutritional health experts, media professionals and representatives from the community.  Supported and catalyzed by the Department of Science and Technology, Govt of India, the project seeks to explore Community Radio as a tool to reach out to marginalised women who have limited knowledge of health and bring them regular information on various aspects of the subject.

The Advisory Committee is chaired by Prof E. Balaguruswamy – President, Coimbatore Academy of Science and co-chaired by Pratim Roy – Director, Keystone Foundation. The members include Dr Uma Maheshwari – Associate Professor, Avinashilingam University; Dr. Thenmozhi Subramanian –Senior Medical Officer, PSG Urban Health Centre; Dr. Parthiban – Chief Doctor, Govt Hospital, Kotagiri; Ms. Madhavi Ravindranath – Programme Head, All India Radio, Ooty; Mr. Chandrasekhar – PSG Community Radio; and community members: Manjula and Sivagami.

The first step of the project was the adaption of the standard questionnaire to suit the community in Keystone’s choice of project area – Aravenu; and its translation into Tamil. The objective of the questionnaire was to document the socio-economic and demographic profile of the target listeners, gain an in-depth understanding of the media habits of the women, (with reference to radio), identify the issues of concern for the community such as health, hygiene, childcare, etc, assess the willingness/interest among women for participation in the community radio initiative, and create and build awareness for the Community Radio and the Science for Women programme.

Community workers discussing methodology and community reactions with the Advisory Committee
Community workers discussing methodology and community reactions with the Advisory Committee

A team of 19 community workers had been trained to conduct the survey using this questionnaire. They were trained at the preliminary workshop held prior to the data collection process where the project and methodology of data-collection was explained to them. Besides effective administration of the questionnaire, the training imparted the skills of establishing a rapport with the community, eliciting response, and honing their powers of observation.

The survey is ongoing and 630 respondents have been surveyed out of the target number of 1100 and the resultant data has been analyzed. A second team has been simultaneously working to code and enter data enabling quicker data analysis. Data was analysed according to a pre-designed analysis framework developed by the Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA).

The survey results showed that although more than 90% of the respondents had a television and cable connection, 33% still listened to the radio with most of them accessing the radio on their mobile phones. This figure could be interpreted as a probability that live dial-in programmes would be warmly received by the community. The survey also threw up details regarding preferred subjects and broadcast timings. 34% of the population surveyed said that they would like to train as a radio jockey and be the voice of the community.

The survey also brought to light the need to address hygiene issues related to drinking water and its sources. Similarly, poor sanitation facilities and improper use of common toilets also needs immediate attention. Even though the general level of health in the target area was noted to be good compared to other regions, the women still need to be aware about the basic aspects of health such as balanced diet and taking precautions against diseases, and particularly about the need to take care of themselves. It was seen that in all knowledge-based questions, most respondents do not have sufficient awareness to answer. As the respondents get most information from doctors and health workers on health related issues, Radio Kotagiri can extensively involve doctors and health workers as experts in providing information and clarifications on health related topics, as well as be involved in outreach health campaigns.

The recommendations for Radio Kotagiri so far has been for live phone-in programmes and live outdoor broadcasts, special programmes on First Aid and mental health, amongst others. Speaking about the project, Dr. Jyoti Sharma, Scientist E, Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Home Affairs, said, “One of DST’s targets is to understand how to communicate science to remote populations and use it to address their needs. Hence, the combined focus on community radio and women’s health and nutrition.”

Pratim Roy, Madhavi Ravindranath, Dr Sreedher and Dr Thenmozhi at the meeting
Pratim Roy, Madhavi Ravindranath, Dr Sreedher and Dr Thenmozhi at the meeting

The meeting closed with a discussion of the results generated so far. With regard to some questions related to certain health conditions, the Advisory Committee went over the syntax of the questions with the community workers as the results were not consistent with their experience. Based on these discussions, the training of community workers will be modified and the questionnaire adapted further as required.

Based on survey findings, the coming months will see the project focusing on developing programmes on anaemia, diarrhoea and reproductive health. As the project develops, the core team from among the community members will need to be trained and eventually given leadership roles that will promote maximum participation in the community, which will rightfully give voice to their issues. As Mr. Rajender Mishra – Consultant, CEMCA said, “This project has the goal of making the community open up and become aware of itself. Hence, working with them will require constant refinement and adaptation of methods.”