Bareilly, India, 29 July 2010 - Traditional healers play an important role in influencing community health decisions and also provide invaluable access to primary health care in underserved areas.
In the context of the Polio Programme, being the first port of call puts traditional healers in a unique position to mobilize the community for polio vaccination,
report Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) in the population, and convince resistant parents to vaccinate their children. Involving these healers through sensitization increases the
ownership of and mobilizes support for the Polio Programme. CORE orients traditional healers on the Polio Eradication Programme at Bareilly.
Towards this goal, CORE-Adventist Development and Relief Agency (CORE-ADRA) conducted a day long workshop for traditional healers and influencers in three blocks of Bareilly district in Uttar Pradesh.
This initiative is part of the CORE Group Polio Project whose community-based communication strategy is designed to ensure that all children within the most vulnerable, hard-to-reach communities are immunised, and that all potential polio cases are reported.
The blocks identified for this workshop were chosen on the basis of their geographical inaccessibility, number of consistent refusal households and missed children and finally,
the limited reach and uptake of routine and polio immunisation on account of barriers to the cold chain and vaccine delivery.
Community Mobilization Coordinators (CMCs), in consultation with the Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA), Auxiliary Nurse and Midwife (ANM) and Anganwadi Workers (AWWs), short listed one hundred healers and influencers from those who were actively involved in the Polio Programme in the chosen blocks.
Using a participatory approach, state officials oriented and sensitized the healers andinfluencers to the importance of strengthening routine immunisation, timely reporting of AFP surveillance while also clarifying questions on the safety of the polio vaccine during sickness and as a preventive measure against the disease. A film on routine immunisation was shown and discussed, stressing on the role of healers in mobilizing the community.
Leaflets with answers to frequently asked questions were also distributed amongst the participants. Post workshop feedback was positive and the participants committed to continuing their support, including timely reporting of AFP cases for polio eradication. CORE-ADRA plans to make a similar workshop an annual feature in each block and high risk district in Uttar Pradesh.