Radio: The trusted medium to turn to in a health crisis

Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi, Senior Journalist

Informative and influential voices – silky smooth ones, pleasant on the ears and the ones full of bass, and the baritone ones – were in evidence at a congregation of radio fraternity, blending into one potent and proven weapon against vaccine hesitancy among the masses. It was this powerful voice from the radio fraternity – government-owned, private sector run, ham operators and the community radio station – that protected hundreds of thousands of lives in the Covid-19 pandemic and is continuing to save many more lives each day by persuading the masses to get vaccinated.

And more important, get the parents of infants and children to get their wards vaccinated against a bunch of life-threatening diseases. 

Supporting and praising the role of the radio and radio professionals during the pandemic and in normal times, Grammy Award winner and UNICEF celebrity supporter Ricky Kej said the young and energetic and highly creative radio professionals had done a tremendous job during the stressful Covid times. He spent a full day with the radio professionals from across the country  and presented awards to the champions – whose creative messaging changed the mindset of the people towards vaccines and vaccination at a time when rumours threatened to derail the Covid-19 vaccination process. 

The two-day workshop on routine immunization was organized by the UNICEF at Mumbai. 

“Creative communicators have a big role in creating a better world,” Ricky Kej said and added that the UNICEF was protecting the child even before it was born. And the radio professionals were helping spread the right messages through their creativity that is hitting the target, he said. The multi-Grammy music awards winner also gave away prizes to award winning radio jockeys – shortlisted by an eminent jury for their creative work in spreading the correct message effectively. 

The workshop, organized by the UNICEF, which started Radio4Child programme in 2014 under which it encouraged and promoted campaigns aimed at child health through immunization and vaccinations – for the infants as also mothers and mothers to be – saw active participation of close to 100 radio professionals – radio jockeys, programming professionals, and news correspondents – over two days, exchanging valuable experiences from their fight against the Covid and deliberated over the way forward. 

Welcoming the participants at the Workshop on Routine Immunization and Radio4Child Recognition Ceremony, Zafrin Chowdhury, Chief of Communication, Advocacy & Partnerships, UNICEF India thanked the radio fraternity for rising to the occasion, always, and helping mobilize the masses on a bunch of health issues since times immemorial. She said UNICEF was proud to be associated with each and evert ‘Immunization Champion’ from the radio fraternity and expressed happiness that what started as a small idea – Radio4Child in 2014 – today had branched out into a full-grown tree with its spread across the country – from the grassroots in remote and inaccessible villages to the urban areas. 

She also thanked the government of India and Government of Maharashtra for the acceleration of their initiatives on routine immunizations – so that all children receive all the scheduled vaccines – so that no child remains deprived. There are still some 30 lakh children who are yet to receive a single vaccine, and the top priority should be this, she said and added, it is not an easy job, but not an impossible one, when everyone of us gets involved with commitment and drive.” 

A panel at the workshop noted with elation that the Radio came out as the one medium that stood out during the pandemic in terms of its penetration, its persuasive voice and its clinical elimination of fake news and rumours – the most destructive and dangerous enemies of any public outreach programmes. 

Dr Sachin Desai, State Immunization Officer, Maharashtra government, sought the help of radio professionals in all the future health and immunization programmes of the government, especially in the government efforts to immunize the zero vaccine children and also in the routine immunization programme.

“It will help in saving the lives of children by increasing vaccination for 22 diseases,” Dr Desai said and requested the media to spread the messages in clear, simple local languages that people understand. 

“Even now after Covid there is some vaccine hesitancy, which needs to be fought,” he said.

Among those who participated in the two-day deliberations were Dr KC Sinha, from All India Radio headquarters, Mr Uday Chawla, AROI, Dr Vivek Virendra Singh, UNICEF Health Specialist, Rajiv Kumar Gupta, former ADG, All India Radio. 

(Lakshmana Venkat Kuchi is a senior journalist tracking social, economic, and political issues and takes a keen interest in sports as well. He has worked with prominent news organisations.)


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