Effective Health Communication Through Vernacular Press

(A Case Study in the State of Manipur)

M. Bimolchandra Singh*
Dr. M.Rabindranath**

Abstract

Health communication is the primary component of public health. It plays a crucial role in achieving the objectives of public health. Without effective health communication, it is impossible to achieve the target of public health. Health communication can function in multiple forms. Verbal and non-verbal types of communication can be used in health communication. The message communicated in the local dialect can increase its effectiveness. Hence, local media plays an important part in the successful delivery of the messages.  It is very much important for the health program planners to have knowledge of selecting communication channels which are most suitable to the people and through which the information of health can be successfully delivered to them.

This research paper recognizes local newspapers as useful tools in health communication. As newspapers can serve multiple functions of informing, educating, and giving entertainment to the public, they are very popular and familiar with youth and adults.

This paper explores the catalytic role of local newspapers in health communication for effectively promoting public health particularly in a society where multiple dialects prevail. Researchers present valuable insights into understanding how local dialect newspapers can be effectively used in health communication. Above all, good health is one of the fundamental sources of human happiness and well being. So, the researchers are very curious to study the significance of local newspapers for effective health communication in Manipur.

Introduction

A newspaper is a regularly printed and published document that normally consists of news reports, articles, photographs, and advertisements. They are published daily, bi/tri-weekly, fortnightly, or monthly. As it informs us about the happening around society, it becomes a very needed part of our lives. The principal aim of a newspaper is to inform, educate, and entertain the readers.

Babalola (2002) opined that “newspapers are the most accessible written documents to the largest proportion of people of all categories, young and old, students and workers, elites and peasants, literates and illiterates.”

While newspapers have a greater role in shaping a nation through its columns, health communication has become one of the major components of modern newspapers as people are more health-conscious today. Communication, as the term indicates, is the exchange of information between individuals through writing or using a common system of signs and behaviors.  Hence, public health without effective health communication is far from reality to achieve the target of public health. Health communication can influence, to a great extent, individuals and communities and make them comprehend healthcare, thereby improving public health. Health communication is an effective tool that can be used to improve health outcomes and it makes a great contribution to reducing health disparities and helps to promote behavioral and social change (Renata, 2007).

The World Health Organization Constitution (1948) defines health as: “A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Health communication, in its turn, is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as: “The study and use of communication strategies to inform and influence individual and community decisions that enhance health.”

WHO refers to public health as: ‘All organized measures (whether public or private) to prevent disease, promote health, and prolong life among the population as a whole’.

Objectives of the study

  • To critically analyze the status of reporting health messages in vernacular newspapers in the state of Manipur.
  • To find out the challenges and to identify remedial measures of reporting health messages in in vernacular newspapers in Manipur.

Methodology

For this study, researchers analyzed the data of circulation of newspapers in Manipur published in the 58th annual report of the Press in India (2013-14) by the Registrar of Newspapers for India under the Ministry for Information & Broadcasting, Government of India. Data collected from different institutions such as State Health Society, Manipur; Health and Family Welfare, Government of Manipur is also used for this study. Thus, the researchers have used secondary data to observe the social structure and economic condition of Manipur that are directly or indirectly linked to print media. Also, the researcher used the data collected from reputed journals, papers, and related websites.

Brief profile of demographic and social structure of Manipur

Manipur, one of the border states of North East India, is surrounded by Nagaland to the north, Assam to the west, and Mizoram to the southwest and by Myanmar to the south and east. Imphal is the capital of Manipur. As it is largely isolated from the rest of India, the state’s economy is virtually based on agriculture and forestry, and medium and small industries including cottage industries where handloom and handicrafts take a vital role (Indian Brand Equity Foundation, 2016). Manipur became a full-fledged state in 1972 (Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, 2016). The state language ‘Manipuri’ was officially recognized as a national language under the Eight Schedule of the Indian Constitution in 1992 (Ministry of Home Affairs). The geographical area of Manipur is 22,327 Sq. Km.; the population of Manipur is 2,721,756 with a 79.85 percent literacy rate (Registrar General & Census Commission, 2015). There are nine districts of which five are hilly districts and four plain districts and also 36 blocks and 2391 villages (Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, 2016).

Manipur is a land of diversity with 34 listed scheduled tribes apart from the Deities, Meitei Pangals, and seven scheduled castes along with their separate dialects and cultures (Ministry of Tribal Affairs, 2016; Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, 2015). The transport and communication system in the state is worse than ever. There is no proper connectivity in many parts of the state, particularly in the remote interior areas. With such awful geographical gaps, making communities aware of the value of health and hygiene is not a simple task. Here, the role of newspapers in providing healthcare information is extremely important. In Manipur, newspaper reading is quite common among people. However, there is a smaller number of readers of national newspapers.

The print media industry in Manipur

In Manipur, there are 174 registered publications as of 31st March 2014 of which 67 are registered dailies (Press in India, 2013-2014). Poknapham (Manipuri), Sangai Express (Manipuri and English), Hueiyen Lanpao (Manipuri and English), Paojel (Manipuri), Imphal Free Press(English), Kangleipakki Meira (Manipuri) are some of the leading dailies published in Imphal ( Department of Information and Public Relations, 2016).

Also, there are many dailies published in tribal dialects. Aja (Tangkhul), Cham (Kabui), Eimi Times (Thadou-Kuki and English), Hmasawnnathar (Hmar), Lamka Post (Paite) Zogam Today (Zou) are some of the popular tribal dialect newspapers in Manipur published in district headquarters (Department of Information and Public Relations, 2016).

The following tables may indicate the circulation of publications in Manipur:

Registered publications in Manipur as of 31st March 2014 (Press in India, 2013-2014).

Daily

BI/ Tri-Weekly

Weekly

Fortnightly

Monthly

Quarterly

Annually

Others

Total

67

3

19

12

47

9

5

12

174

 

The total circulation of registered publications in Manipur from 2013 to 2014 is 3,50,662.

Manipur is in the third position among the northeastern states in publications.

The total number of registered newspapers as of 31.3.2014 (Language & Periodicity-wise, Manipur)

Language

Daily

Bi/ Tri-Weekly

Weekly

Fortnightly

Monthly

Quarterly

Others

Annual

Total

English

12

0

1

1

3

1

1

3

22

Hindi

0

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

2

Manipuri

19

0

3

5

12

3

4

0

46

Bilingual

17

0

11

3

10

4

3

1

49

Multilingual

6

0

1

1

4

0

2

1

15

Others

13

3

2

2

17

1

2

0

40

total

67

3

19

12

47

9

12

5

174

(Source: Press in India 2013-2014).

Circulation of newspapers (language and periodicity-wise, Manipur)

Language

Daily

Bi/ Tri-Weekly

Weekly

Fortnightly

Monthly

Total

No.

Cir.

No.

Cir.

No.

Cir.

No.

Cir.

No.

Cir.

No.

Cir.

English

6

153891

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

6

153891

Hindi

1

2858

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

2858

Manipuri

4

166626

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

166626

Others

1

27287

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

27287

Total

12

350662

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

12

350662

 (Source: Press in India 2013-2014).

The number of Manipuri publications that furnished annual statements in 2013- 14 was four. All four publications were dailies and published from Manipur.

Circulation Pattern of Manipuri Newspapers

Category

Range

Bi /tri-weekly

Periodicals

Total

No.

Cir.

No.

Cir.

No.

Cir.

Medium

25001-50000

4

166626

0

0

4

166626

(Source: Press in India 2013-2014).

Circulation claimed by the four publications accounted for 1,66,77,206 copies per publishing day.

Profile of health services in Manipur

Demographic, socio-economic, and health profile of Manipur state as compared to India figures.

Indicator

Manipur

India

Total population (In crore) (Census 2011)

0.27

121.01

Decadal Growth (%) (Census 2011)

18.65

17.64

Crude Birth Rate ( SRS 2013)

14.7

21.4

Crude Death Rate ( SRS 2013)

4

7

Natural Growth Rate ( SRS 2013)

10.6

14.4

Infant Mortality Rate ( SRS 2013)

10

40

Maternal Mortality Rate (SRS 2010-12)

NA

178

Total Fertility Rate (SRS 2012)

NA

2.4

Sex Ratio (Census 2011)

987

940

Child Sex Ratio (Census 2011)

934

914

Total Literacy Rate (%) (Census 2011)

79.85

74.04

Male Literacy Rate (%) (Census 2011)

86.49

82.14

Female Literacy Rate (%) (Census 2011)

73.17

65.46

 (Source: RHS Bulletin, March 2012, M/O Health & F.W., GOI)

Health services delivery: coverage (based on 2011 census)

Facility Centers

Numbers

Medical college

2

District Hospital

7

District Hospital (FRU)

5

CHC

16

PHC

85

PHC 24*7

38

PHSC

421

Other public hospitals(state TB/leprosy hospital

2

Private hospitals

30

Bed population ratio

1:791

 (Source: Health and Family Welfare Department, Govt. of Manipur)

 State Health Workforce (based on 2011 census)

Doctor-population ratio

1:1183

Doctor- nurse ratio

1:2

Nurse-population ratio

1:589

Pharmacist-population ratio

1:760

 (Source: Health and Family Welfare Department, Govt. of Manipur)

Significance of vernacular newspapers in health communication

India is a land of diversity with many different tribes and cultures. It has a pluralistic society where different religious, ethnic, racial and various political groups flourish in a single society. Different communities have different cultures and traditions. Their mind and behavior are very much influenced by local issues that are reported in local dailies. Local newspaper plays an important role in society. It is one of the most used sources of information by the public. It informs the public of news and events happening in society. It also observes the functions of the local authority and institutions. So, the significance of local dailies is needed to be carefully considered in providing health communication to address any health-related issues. 

It takes some effort to convince someone and make him understand and follow some ideas or information. So does with health communication. Health communication, except for the people who are seriously interested in it, is neither entertaining nor of high news value for the common people. Therefore, it is essential to have a medium that can attract the public and become compulsory reading. In this context, the local newspapers assume importance for disseminating health information in an attractive manner or format. 

Usually, people give a quick, superfluous glance at health news. Therefore, it is not simple to make people adopt health behavior practices. It needs a good convincing communication medium. Lack of appropriate information on healthcare among the public obstructs achieving the goal of public health.  Thus, it is very much necessary to study the culture, belief, literacy, and lifestyle of the public before providing health news or starting a health program.  Health communication or programs based on information and facts based on careful study of everyday lives of their target groups and environment where they live has a great chance of success.

Manipur is a land of diversity with 34 listed scheduled tribes, Meities, Meitei Pangals, and other SCs along with their separate dialects and cultures. Health communication that reaches all communities of the state requires some consideration of the geographical and demographic features of the state. In border areas, for instance, health communication on water-borne diseases or malaria may be of high importance for the public while diabetes, beauty tips, weight-loss and the like can interest urban people.

To make individuals and communities hygienic and healthy, it is very important to understand their health-related problems faced in their respective areas. It needs to be mentioned that there are fewer readers of national newspapers, and hence, people widely depend on local newspapers for all varieties of news. According to the Press in India 58th annual report, Manipur has 174 registered publications.

Local Manipuri newspapers are the most used medium of information in Manipur. As a result, newspapers may be used as effective tools for promoting public health in Manipur. Since information and health communication cannot be apart, newspapers are of vital importance in both rural and urban areas of the state. It plays a very important role and also has a great impact on health communication. It is the main information provider in the technologically backward areas. Easy access to information related to healthcare makes individuals or the general public aware of public health.

However, local newspapers in Manipur have certain drawbacks too. The number of subscribers of newspapers is less in comparison to the number of newspapers published in the state. Roughly, the ratio of newspaper readers in Manipur is around 1:5, i.e., a newspaper is read by 5 persons. Consequently, due to smaller circulation, the newspaper industry or newspaper publication is not a lucrative business in Manipur. Also, media houses have to confront various threats or hindrances to save the ‘freedom of the press’. Even in such a case, the role of local newspapers is of paramount importance in this land-locked border state of NE India. The geo-climatic condition, socio-economic problems, diverse cultures, food habits, etc. have made media, especially the print media such as the local newspapers, an integral part of the community to address their grievances of which health communication is of primary concern of the people and the government. 

Suggestions

The state of Manipur has different dialects of various communities, including 34 scheduled tribes and Meitei Pangals who do not have their own scripts except the Metis, the majority community inhabiting the valley area. Meiteilon or Manipuri mainly spoken by the Meiteis has been the lingua franca of the State. Meiteis have their own script called Meitei Mayek (Meitei script), and this script is recognized by the government and taught in schools. However, since most of the tribal communities are not familiar with the script, they prefer English. Otherwise, they would use their dialects or Manipuri written in English alphabets. In short, the English alphabets are the primary means of written communication among the communities. English alphabets are most suitable for all dialects for effective health communication.

Like anywhere else, in Manipur too most of the print media have different sections devoted to news, sports, entertainment, etc. A health section should also be an integral part of the print media so that readers are made fully aware of information on health issues and its benefits. It is the need of society. It is evident that regular health news reports in print media have made people accustomed to information on health; however, it is not as entertaining as film news. 

Regarding the content in the health information in newspapers, the words or terms used in the given information needful careful editing. Technical jargon or scientific and medical terms should be avoided as far as possible. Simplified language and a lucid manner will work among the laymen. Easy access and easy-to-understand are the essential points to remember in providing health messages to the people through the newspapers. 

Also, health information given in newspapers requires an in-depth understanding of the primary health concerns of specified areas. The focus should be on the need of the area. For instance, in border areas, health communication on water-borne diseases or malaria may be of high value for the public while diabetes, beauty tips, weight-loss, physiotherapy and the like may draw great attention among the urban people. 

Hence, local newspapers have a greater role in delivering health messages to the public in Manipur. However, the quality of information needs to be maintained to the extent that people should be waiting to learn more from the next issue of the paper. 

Conclusion

The present study has highlighted that local newspapers can be used as effective tools in health communication. Newspapers in the local dialects are very important. The communication gap is one of the most important factors that hinder delivering and exchanging messages and ideas. So, local newspapers should be considered as a vital part of health communication, particularly in a land-locked area like Manipur. However, in Manipur local newspapers do not focus much on health-based stories. They are more inclined towards political news, insurgency news, and human interest stories.

References

  • Babalola, E.A. (2002). Newspapers as instruments for building literate communities: The Nigerian Experience. Nordic Journal of African Studies 11(3), 403-410.
  • Department of Information and Public Relations, (January 6, 2016).  List of newspaper/print media recognized by DIPR, Government of Manipur.  Retrieved from:
    http://dipr-  manipur.gov.in/index.php/component/content/article/14-front-dipr/149-list-of-newspapper- print-media-recognised-by-dipr
  • Indian Brand Equity Foundation. (January 14, 2016). About Manipur: industries, economy,  Exports, Tourism, Agriculture, climate, Geography. Retrieved From:      http://www.ibef.org/states/Manipur.aspx
  • Ministry of Home Affairs. (n.d). Constitutional provisions relating to Eighth Schedule. Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. Retrieved from              http://mha.nic.in/hindi/sites/upload_files/mhahindi/files/pdf/Eighth_Schedule.pdf (Downloaded on January 10, 2016).
  • Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (December 10, 2015).  Scheduled Caste Welfare – List of Scheduled Castes: Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India. Retrieved from: http://socialjustice.nic.in/sclist.php
  • Ministry of Tribal Affairs. (January 10, 2016). State/Union territory-wise list of Scheduled Tribes in India, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India. Retrieved from: http://tribal.nic.in/content/list%20of%20scheduled%20tribes%20in%20India.aspx
  • Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (5 January 2016).  National Health Mission, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India. Retrieved from: http://nrhm.gov.in/nrhm-in-state/state-wise- information/manipur.html#health_profile
  • Press in India, 2013-2014. 58th annual report, the Registrar of Newspapers for India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.
  • Renata Schiavo. (2007). Health Communication: From Theory to Practice. San Francisco: Jossey- Bass.
  • Registrar General & Census Commission (2015). 2011 census of India, Registrar General & Census Commission, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. Retrieved from:  http://censusindia.gov.in/
* Research Scholar, Dept. of Journalism and Creative Writing,

** Head, Dept. of Journalism and Creative Writing, Central University of Himachal Pradesh, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh

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