By Namutamba Sarah
While implementing a research project that aims to increase Voluntary Family Planning (VFP) uptake in Jinja City and Iganga Municipality, Busoga Health Forum (BHF) together with Makerere School of Public Health (MakSPH) are using Radio as one of the interventions to reach the target audience.
This is being done through radio talk shows and community radio talk shows.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), voluntary family planning is a human right. UNFPA also notes that family planning is central to gender equality and women’s empowerment, and it is a key factor in reducing poverty. It is from this background that several interventions in the Urban Thrive project (UTP) were designed to increase knowledge and understanding about VFP services among women, men, and youth.
Popular radio stations in the Busoga sub-region i.e. Busoga One FM in Jinja city and Eye FM in Iganga Municipality are being used. The UTP focuses on co-designing interventions with the target audience. Through the co-design workshop, the participants preferred using these two stations despite the region having quite several radio stations. The participants specifically requested information on; methods, merits, side effects, and myths and misconceptions about family planning methods.
The radio station mapping exercise was also done as a way of making an informed decision when selecting radio stations to work with. During the exercise, the following was observed;
- Some radio stations had never intentionally broadcast Family Planning related information. The ones that broadcast F.P. information were doing it for a very short time of about three months or less.
- Some of the feedback obtained from stakeholders during the mapping process included; simplifying the health messages for the target audience to easily comprehend.
- For the pre-recorded information, the creativity in the production is significant in catching the listeners’ attention.
- Another important feedback was that delivery of the Family Planning messages tends to ignore the side effects yet they are the biggest challenges faced.
- There is competition from herbalists who persuasively discourage people from using modern contraceptive methods.
- The message recipients are exposed to a lot of information in form of personal stories from their peers which is in most cases wrong or biased information.
- To reach men, the message should be well packaged and broadcast at the right time such as during sports programs, prime time, and political talk shows.
Therefore, the radio station mapping exercise helped in coming up with an appropriate package for the target population. It also helped to identify radio stations that are being used to broadcast the VFP information.
- The Two radio stations being used were selected from Iganga Municipality and Jinja city
- Two radio talk shows are done every month; at Eye FM and Busoga One FM respectively, the former, every first Wednesday of the month, and the latter, every first Tuesday of the month.
- The panelists include; family planning focal persons, implementing partners, BHF staff, and politicians depending on the topic of the month.
- Community radios are also used to disseminate FP messages to targeted audiences such as market vendors and the fishing community at Landing sites.
- We have been able to reach audiences beyond our implementation areas, which are Jinja city and Iganga municipality. We have had callers from as far as; Mayuge, Kaliro, and the rest of the Busoga region and beyond.
- People in urban areas access radio broadcasts via live stream on their smartphones wherever they are, whilst going about their everyday business.
- Radio has a high level of credibility; most people believe that the information heard over the radio is factual. A caller from Iganga Municipality noted: “How I wish those health workers could come to our communities to educate us on those facts about family planning! When we go to health Centers we don’t get such detailed information.”
- Continued education on the benefits of family planning to targeted clients helps them make informed choices.
The stand-out observations include but are not limited to:
- The importance of including experts in the field of family planning i.e. healthcare providers, policymakers, and community leaders, to discuss the importance of family planning and answer questions from listeners.
- Feedback from listeners is a rewarding experience. Many have called in to express their gratitude and to share their own experiences. The outstanding one is the ability to make informed decisions about their families as a result of the information learned from the talk shows.
- In addition to providing information about family planning, these talk shows have been a platform for addressing other reproductive health issues. For example, the importance of antenatal care, maternal health, the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, and Ebola Virus Disease.
- Increasing BHF partnership opportunities with other institutions doing similar work, such as; the Ministry of Health (MoH), Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU), and Local Government, among others.
Through these talk shows, individuals have been empowered to make informed decisions about their reproductive health, and contribute to the overall health and well-being of the Busoga sub-region and beyond.
The UTP project funded by the John Templeton Foundation uses other interventions such as; drama shows, Short Service Messages (SMS), WhatsApp groups, and gender-sensitive community groups to reach different target audiences.