Veteran editors, Sir Mark Tully and Vinod Mehta speak at editors' meet organised by UNICEF and IGNOU to mark the first-ever World Immunization Week.
NEW DELHI, India, 26 April, 2012: A high level group of editors from Delhi and Madhya Pradesh came together for a brainstorming session, to mark the first-ever World Immunization Week (21-28 April 2012).
During the meet, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) discussed their partnership project on Routine Immunisation, initiated last year.
Setting the context, Dr. Ajay Khera, Deputy Commissioner, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, New Delhi informed that the Government of India has declared Year 2012 -13 as the year of Intensification of Routine Immunization.
Focusing on the fact that out of 26 million children born every year in India, one-third do not complete their immunization, over 25 national editors from leading English and Hindi media discussed the crucial role that media can play for creating awareness on this issue. The editors suggested several ways to improve routine immunisation and fill the information gap.
Sir Mark Tully, veteran journalist said, “Undue emphasis is laid on curative medicine rather than preventive measures and that is why I entirely support the immunization campaign. For spreading awareness traditional media like radio can still be very effective to reach remote areas of the country”.
Emphasizing on the need for health communication to be simple, icon of Indian journalism, Mr. Vinod Mehta said, “Health issues are often communicated in a complex manner. Stories have to be simple in order to communicate effectively. Strategies like celebrity endorsements as seen in the case of the polio program can make a huge difference.”
IGNOU’s School of Journalism and New Media Studies (SOJNMS) which had closely collaborated with UNICEF during the year long initiative, for building capacities of select national and MP based media, was represented by Prof. Yadav. Dr Yadav opined that myths and lack of awareness about immunization was a major reason for low demand for vaccination. He emphasized on the need to engage and build capacities of grassroot level journalists.
Prof. S.N Singh, Former Director, IGNOU Media center pointed out that while the partnership had been successful in catalysing interactions between national and state media through IGNOU’s video-conferencing and SMS networks, district level media present in remote corners of priority states were the most important link in the puzzle and needed to be engaged with, on a regular basis.
Mr. Palash Surjan, Editor, Deshbandhu, Madhya Pradesh pointed out that MP has one of the lowest immunization rates - 42% against the national average of 60%. The need to build capacities of grassroots journalists and sensitize the large number of women Panchayati Raj Institution members was emphasized by him.”
Caroline Den Dulk, Chief of Advocacy and Communication, UNICEF, summed up the first part of the thematic discussion on “ Media’s role: past and future courses”, “Today’s discussion highlights the need for large-scale partnerships, bridging information gaps and building trust at all levels in order to prevent millions of under five children dying from Vaccine Preventable Diseases.”
Citing the example of Right to Education, Mr. Saunand from IGNOU and Mr. S.K Singh, Executive Editor, Zee News proposed the concept of “Right to Immunization” for ensuring an equitable approach for IRI.
Ms. Nidhi Kulpati, NDTV India highlighted the need for media to focus on the frontline workers who are crucial for delivering health services in remote areas Mr. R.K Singh, Editor Navbharat Times and Mr. P. Somvanshi, Resident Editor, Hindustan pointed out that in areas where both media penetration and immunization coverage is low, innovative means of communication such as mobile phones should be used.
Voicing the role played by Urdu media, Mr. Alamgir, News Editor, UNI highlighted the critical role of Urdu media in reaching out to minorities and marginalized communities. Ms Sanchita Sharma, Health Editor Hindustan Times pointed out that negative news or controversies can be turned into huge opportunities in order to highlight child survival issues.
Stressing on the need for two-way flow of information between the media and health authorities, Kounteya Sinha, Health Editor, Times of India said, “We are interested in doing good stories. Immunization is a major problem area for the country and we are only too eager to help provided there is complete transparency.”
“Compared with the national media the state and district media has extensive reach and it is important to engage specifically with these grassroot level journalists. Branding with local connect should be created around the concept of Routine Immunization”, said Mr. Q. W Naqwi, Aaj Tak.
Mr. N.K. Singh, senior media editor from Madhya Pradesh also emphasized the need for brandin andmaking RI a social programme where diverse groups of civil society members are engaged..
Pointing out media’s role, Dr. Henri van den Hombergh, Chief of Health, UNICEF said, “One of the most important part of routine immunisation is to follow a routine and we need media to help continue that routine, if demand side is strong, supply side will also be strong and media should be the voice of the demand side.”
Several novel ideas to impact immunization rates in the country, emerged from the discussion. The role of soap operas, highlighting the role of frontline health workers, direct communication, branding of the campaign, building trust among the people, focusing on the target group (mothers and caregivers), improving delivery system, involvement of women political leaders at the local level, making social and religious connect and long term planning to reach out to people were some of the main points raised by the panellists.
Developmental journalists who have contributed some of the best immunization stories since the launch of the partnership were recognized and awarded during the function. The awardees included Mr. Kounteya Sinha, Health Editor, Times of India, Mr. Nitin Yadav, Senior Sub- Editor, Amar Ujala, Mr. Santosh Singh, Senior Correspondent, Prabhat Khabar, Mr. M.A. Alamgir, Chief Sub Editor, UNI Urdu, Ms. Shefali Chaturvedi, Senior Manager- Programming- Radio Dhammal24. Media professionals from Madhya Pradesh who received the certificates are Mr. Sundip Pouranik, Principal Correspondent IANS, Mr. Raju Kumar, Principal Correspondent, The Sunday Indian, Ms. Ruby Sarkar, Special Correspondent, Deshbandhu, Ms.Ankita Mishra, Asst. Editor, LN Star, Mr. Rakesh Malviya, Freelance journalist, Rohit Shrivastava, Senior Reporter, Dainik Bhaskar and Mr. Pankaj Shukla, City Bureau Head, Navdunia.