With immunisation touching an all time low of 40.9 per cent in Uttar Pradesh, the Akhilesh Yadav government has resolved to join hands with The United Nations Children's Fund to intensify immunisation drive across the state.
Making this announcement on Friday, state Immunisation Director Dr A P Chaturvedi said, "We are all set to launch an intensive immunisation drive with effect from the last week of May and cover the entire state by the end of August."
He was speaking at a state level consultation on 'Media's Role in Supporting Routine Immunisation' organised by UNICEF, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Family Welfare in Lucknow.
"The fact remains that our routine immunisation level was far below the national average of 61 per cent and this government is committed to improving it in the state," he asserted.
Delivering the keynote address, eminent journalist and Prasar Bharti chairperson Dr Mrinal Pande urged mediapersons to find new ways of covering news related to immunisation and to package their stories in a way so as to catch the attention of the people.
Highlighting the increasing role of media in spreading the good word about immunisation, she drew the attention of the audience to how in the yesteryears, it was common to hear old grannies casually narrating the poor survival of children born in a family.
"It was not unusual to hear that of the 13 children that a lady gave birth to in a family, there were only six or seven survivors; no one took it that seriously because there was no such immunisation in those days", she pointed out."
She urged media persons to treat RI as a hard news story, like any other political story and not look at it as a soft story. This she said could be done by linking the child health and mortality rate in a district to the performance parameter of the members of Legislative Assembly.
Looking at present media trends she said, "If so much space could be allocated to moon sighting, sunrise, sunset timings, films timing, television listings, surely the media could also allocate space for a people's metre in the main editions of the newspapers."
UNICEF state head Adele Khudr sought to point out, "Immunisation could reduce child mortality. It is an easy to monitor, straight forward and cost effective intervention."
She said, "We have to achieve the 80 per cent target of complete immunisation and maintain it. Currently, UP has reached the 41 per cent level".
Recalling a recent study done by UNICEF she pointed out one of its key findings suggested that given a choice, parents were still not giving priority to immunisation.
"The media's role therefore should be that of a motivator who has the power to change attitudes," she pointed out.
Veteran journalist Usha Rai, presented the results of the media tracking exercise that covered media stories in print and electronic media over a six-month period. The report highlighted the kind of space and treatment the subject was given -- from headings, number of words, to photographs, captions, slant of the story, and the manner in which an adverse event was reported. She shared that maximum media coverage on immunisation was related to Adverse Events Following Immunisation incidents.
Communication expert Vidhya Raghavan prepared a report that will guide the training curriculum for UNICEF's initiative on the media's role in supporting routine immunisation in the 15 low performing districts of Uttar Pradesh.Their feedback would also help inform health departments at the state and district level, paving the way for better linkages and working relationship with the media.