13,646 Primer on a Polio Paper, The Drum Beat 764, September 19- 2018

The Drum BeatWord of Mouth: Primer on a Polio Paper – The Drum Beat 764
September 19, 2018
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For 30 years, there has been an extensive worldwide effort to eradicate polio, resulting in its reduction by 99%. Communication and community engagement have been central strategic elements of that effort. What insights and ideas can the communication for development community glean from these strategies to accelerate action on other development issues? Under the auspices of the United States Agency on International Development (USAID) and the Maternal Child and Survival Program (MCSP), a group of organisations gathered on February 1-2 2018 to answer that question. The results follow. (A PDF of the paper, Word of Mouth: Learning from Polio Communication and Community Engagement Initiatives, is also available for download on the MCSP website, here.)
From The Communication Initiative Network – where communication and media are central to social and economic development.
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  • 1. Background
    “Whether the benchmark is the Sustainable Development Goals, a national development plan, or an organizational mission, making progress on difficult development issues – such as education, health, poverty, gender, citizen engagement, the environment, HIV/AIDS, economic development, participative governance, infrastructure, and so much more – is anything but easy. These are steep hills to climb, not gentle inclines to stroll. This reality underscores the importance of learning from experiences addressing issues on which there has been demonstrable progress. One such issue is polio eradication … Challenges and Successes … Sharing the Learning … Shared Challenges and Issues … Key Challenges … Funding …”
  • 2. Social Mobilization
    “The process of people connecting and organizing in formal and informal networks at local, national, and global levels is the basis for social mobilization, a powerful driver of positive development. The Social Mobilisation Network (SMNet) in India, co-developed by the CORE Group and UNICEF, was hugely important in the successful action to eradicate polio in northern India. It also inspired similar networks in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan … Emphasizing Local Engagement … Mapping for Mobilization … Multi-Pronged Strategies …”
  • 3. Norms and Culture
    “One of the most challenging and important areas of focus for any communication and community engagement strategy, on any development issue, is how to demonstrate respect for local culture while working to change predominant social norms that work against public health or other goals … Considering Gender … Recognizing Communication Patterns … Building Trust … Safety … The Role of Faith … Leveraging Natural Spaces …”
  • 4. Community-Based Surveillance
    “Surveillance of disease incidence and trends is normally the exclusive domain of professionals trained to monitor, gather, analyze, and report relevant data. Contrary to the professionalization of this role, the polio program sought the significant engagement of communities in the surveillance process … Time and Access … Trust and Means … Sustainability …”
  • 5. Data-Driven Strategy
    “Numerical data can be an uneasy bedfellow for social processes such as communication and community engagement. Yet such data have been essential for effective communication and community engagement action as part of the overall polio eradication strategy … Core, Common Indicators … Real-Time Use … Nontraditional Approaches … Missed Children … Program Incorporation …”
  • 6. Operational Oversight
    “No matter the job being undertaken across any development issue and in any situation, if one gets too close to the trees, it is difficult to see the entire forest. Seeing and understanding the forest is crucial for effective and sustainable long-term development progress. The folks working day-to-day on the ground are invaluable. And their value can be enhanced through regular, consistent review by informed and knowledgeable people who are not consumed by that day-to-day work (i.e., those who can still see the forest) … Oversight Infrastructure … Oversight Experience … External Reviews … Regular Reviews … Know the Culture … Current Status and Accountability … Avoiding Groupthink … Effect of Consistent Review … Core Question …”
  • 7. Conclusion
    “…Derived from the analysis above, it is suggested that the core elements we have outlined – social mobilization, norms and culture, community-based surveillance, data-driven strategies, and operational oversight – are key for effective communication programs, regardless of whether the funding and management are internal or external to a country. More specific to communication and community engagement action, the polio communication experience suggests that adopting the following seven practices is important for effective strategies and action…”
  • 8. References
  • 9. Acknowledgments

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Coming soon…

An interactive discussion on Word of Mouth will commence soon within The CI’s Health Communication Network. Open to all, this group currently has almost 13,500 members. We hope you will join the group/discussion and ! engage with us further on Word of Mouth. Stay tuned for details!


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This issue of The Drum Beat was written by Kier Olsen DeVries.
The Drum Beat is the email and web network of The Communication Initiative Partnership.

Full list of the CI Partners:
ANDIBBC Media ActionBernard van Leer FoundationBreakthroughCiturna TVFundación ImaginarioFundación Nuevo Periodismo Iberoamericano (FNPI)Heartlines,Johns Hopkins Center for Communication ProgramsMaternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP)MISAOpen Society FoundationsOxfam NovibPAHOThe Panos InstitutePuntos de EncuentroSAfAIDSSesame WorkshopSoul CitySTEPS InternationalUNAIDSUNICEFUniversidad de los AndesWorld Health Organization (WHO)W.K. Kellogg Foundation

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Chair of the Partners Group: Garth Japhet, Founder, Soul City garth@heartlines.org.za

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The Editor of The Drum Beat is Kier Olsen DeVries.
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