Health Ministry & Partners Review Interactive Radio Programme  

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Programme Manager, Health Education Division and Communications Lead at the Directorate of Health Security and Emergency, Harold Thomas

By Ibrahim Sorie Koroma

In a recent move in order to make its work a little bit easier and efficient, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation together with its partners have reviewed phase six of its UNICEF supported Nationwide Interactive Radio Discussion Programme in Kono and Moyamba Districts on Tuesday 7th and Thursday 9th January, respectively.

The Interactive Radio Discussion Programme comprise over 42 radio stations across the country, broadcasting health and other issues of public health concerns/importance to reach different communities and targeted audiences to change behaviours and create demand for the essential health services provided by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and partners. For transparency and accountability, the radio programme was monitored by Civil Society Organization, Health for All Coalition (HfAC), which presented Independent Monitoring Report of each phase of the interactive radio programme in every regional review meeting.

In his opening statement, Programme Manager, Health Education Division and Communications Lead at the Directorate of Health Security and Emergency,  Harold Thomas said that the radio programme  started some time in 2018 with the first phase, and since then, they have progressed onto phase six, which they were reviewing in Kono and Moyamba. “The programme is done in phases and each phase covers a period of three months and each phase is followed with a regional review meeting”, added Mr. Thomas While giving out the key objectives of the review meeting, he said that they were reviewing the phase six radio programme to improve the implementation of subsequent phases of the nationwide interactive radio programme and to develop phase seven district media plans for better  implementation  of  the programme  in the period under review (March –May, 2020).

He also urged radio station Managers to allocate additional slots to the programme, apart from the programme designed, paid for air time, and that they should continue doing their usual radio health discussion programmes, as it will be good for sustainability. Following the completion of phase five media programme in 2019, Civil Society Organization, Health For All Coalition embarked on an Impact Assessment on the Nationwide Interactive Radio Programme, which was to investigate the level of awareness of communities and beneficiaries with regards to certain positive health seeking behaviours that could have been influenced as a result of the nationwide interactive Radio discussions health program and to know the percentage of beneficiaries who can cite some positive change to certain health seeking behaviours, by listening to the radio interactive health discussion program and to determine the percentage of beneficiaries who stated that the interactive radio discussion health programs motivated them to demand for health services.

With that, Health for All Coalition Programme Manager, Alhassan Bakarr Kamara, presented key highlights of the Independent Impact Assessment Findings and stated that Individual awareness of the interactive health radio discussion program stands at 65%, which means a good percentage of individuals (35%) are not aware of the interactive radio discussions conducted.

He continued that an identifiable barrier, especially in rural communities, is access to a radio set, which poses a major barrier to radio listening at community level, which accounts for 47% of participants who claimed that they don’t have access to a radio set and 53% participants claimed that they listen to radio regularly and 47% claimed they don’t listen to radio at all.

Mr. Kamara added that among those who listened to radio regularly, 88% claimed that they have listened to the weekly interactive radio discussion programmes, while 12% claimed that they have never listened to  any of the interactive radio discussion programs.

He continued that majority of those who listened to the radio discussion programmes are male, which accounts for 69%, while 31% are female.

According to Mr. Kamara, women participation and listening to the interactive health radio discussions is a challenge, because of certain cultural barriers, as women in rural communities can’t discuss certain sensitive issues publicly without the consent of their husbands/partners, while low educational level or illiteracy among rural women also plays a part.

“The most listened to health topics are; Immunization/Marklate (75%), Free Health Care (70%), Teenage pregnancy(68%), malaria(65%), maternal death(60%), Diarrhoea and Flooding (57%), Anti Natal Care/Post Natal Care (56%), Sexually Transmitted Infections/HIV (51%) and the least is Caustic Soda egestion, which stands at (33%)”, Mr. Kamara Concluded.

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