When it comes to eradicating a disease in any nation, the very first step towards would involve creating awareness among the masses. And that’s when creative campaigns and medical drives play an important role.
In India, polio eradication has been a huge success. Until 2009, over half of the world’s polio cases were accounted in India. But because of the remarkable job done by a wide range of workers and volunteers, India is now considered polio-free. The polio eradication campaign across India sets a great example for other healthcare campaigns to follow.
Here are a few tips for a successful healthcare campaign:
Tip 1: Maintaining relations with international organisations and NGOs:
NGOs and health organizations like UNICEF, WHO and Rotary International serve as key players in awareness campaigns. These NGOs provide financial resources for large-scale reach. They also make efforts to get in touch with dignitaries and celebrities to endorse the campaign cause. For instance, Rotary International has contributed a whopping Rs 790 crores to eradicate polio in India. It also came up with an innovative way to create awareness about the issue, by launching airport baggage tags which said ‘End Polio Now’.
Tip 2: Using catchy taglines:
‘Do boond zindagi ke’. Did it ring a bell? Of course, it did. This is what we mean when we say a catchy tagline. Something that everyone – urban and rural – can relate to, is easy to remember and communicate. The pulse polio vaccination drive, ‘Do boond zindagi ke’ saw a 100% percent success rate in eradicating the disease. Another campaign, “Har bachcha har baar”, personalizes the message for polio immunization and encourages parents to take action to protect their children against polio. Apart from a catchy tagline, using attractive visuals and colours might help too. A majority of polio campaigns use yellow, sky blue and magenta for their posters and billboards.
Tip 3: Getting popular faces to endorse the cause:
When it comes to creating awareness, trust Bollywood. It is not a surprise that when any cause is affiliated with a Bollywood star in India, it works wonders. Healthcare campaigns across the country have taken advantage of this. The most celebrated Indian actor, Amitabh Bachchan, brought the polio eradication message to the limelight when he became the goodwill ambassador of UNICEF. The campaign puts the onus on parents to take care of their children with the tagline “Mere bachche ko do boond har baar”, with the logo depicting a couple with a child taking two drops of polio vaccine. Over the past decade, Rotary and UNICEF have engaged many other celebrities like Preity Zinta, Rani Mukherjee, Hema Malini, Aishwarya Rai, Shah Rukh Khan, Amir Khan to endorse the cause.
Tip 4. Take it to the streets:
Well, even though media is a credible and quick tool to reach the masses, it would be great to promote the campaign face to face or take it to the streets. The success of polio eradication cannot be attributed to TV ads or popular faces only, but it was the effort by thousands of volunteers who physically went to the far-flung rural areas.
For instance, in 2001, the Social Mobilization Network (SMNet) was launched in Uttar Pradesh to endorse the cause. This network now has 7000 mobilisers speaking in local languages and educating them about the importance of vaccination.
Besides this, other communication interventions on streets include mike announcements, puppet shows, film screenings and street plays that are organised during large-scale events like Kumbh Mela and Shravani Mela to create awareness about polio immunization.
Tip 5: Endorsing through crowd-pleasers
In our cricket-crazy country, where Sachin Tendulkar is worshipped as God, exploring crowd-pleasers like cricketers is a win-win situation. Sensing this popularity, Rotary, UNICEF and WHO partnered with BCCI to launch a ‘Bowl Out Polio’ campaign in 2003, which was an innovative way towards polio eradication.
In fact, events like the T20, test series, Ranji trophy and the IPL have all been effectively used to reinforce campaign messages. Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly, Ravi Shastri, Harbhajan Singh, M.S. Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan are just a few of the many Indian cricketers who bring the message of polio eradication with them.
Tip 6: Identifying hidden heroes:
While widespread mass media campaigns continue to ensure national visibility and public awareness, many grass root level health workers have also contributed towards spreading healthcare campaigns. One example of an average Indian working towards polio eradication is Ramesh Ferris, who went from being a polio victim to dedicating his whole life to the cause of eradicating polio. He contracted the disease when he was six months old, and his birth mother not having enough resources, neglected his health care. He started a campaign “Cycle to Walk Canada” in 2008 where he hand-cycled 7,140 kms across Canada giving media interviews, making presentations about polio eradication at schools and churches, and raising thousands of dollars. After graduation, he came to India and started many programs in India and in Pakistan working with the government and frontline workers. Many such ordinary people have created a big impact in other healthcare campaigns across the world.
The efforts for polio eradication cannot be paused. It is important for India to continue working until a global polio-free certification is achieved. The above tips can be universally used to achieve a successful healthcare campaign, and can help eradicate other harmful diseases from the world.