Local and Vocal: How a Community Radio Pilot Helped Generate Buzz Around PM-JAY in Uttar Pradesh
The Community Radio pilot run in four districts of Uttar Pradesh informed, educated and mobilized the eligible population to enroll and use the scheme. As a medium that is accountable to the community and keeps the spotlight on local issues, sustained engagement with this hyperlocal media will result in better scheme outcomes.
A dispatch from the field in Uttar Pradesh by Manisha Tripathi and Himani Sethi
Munni Devi* of Meerut district in Uttar Pradesh was losing her eyesight and was advised a surgery by her doctors. She didn’t have the money for the procedure and was in despair. That’s when she heard about the free cashless treatments provided under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) on the local radio channel Radio IIMT. Munni sought the help of the radio bhaiyya to know more about the scheme, and the station also helped her enroll as a beneficiary. Once an Ayushman card was issued to her, she got treated for her eye problem at a hospital, in a free and cashless transaction.
Scores of people like Munni tune into their local radio stations to listen to local musicians and programs addressing local issues and events. The hyperlocal medium, with radio jockeys (RJs) bantering in regional dialects, makes educational material relatable for listeners, giving community radio networks a far better reach into the beneficiary base of PM-JAY compared to newspapers and mainstream television programs. Community radio networks are also accountable to the community, as they are part of it and know the local issues and concerns. Which is what made community radio networks effective partners for generating awareness on PM-JAY in Uttar Pradesh.
Four districts with five radio stations were selected for the pilot which ran from September to December 2021. To steer the community radio pilot, ACCESS Health with support from the Gates Foundation, facilitated a partnership with SMART, an organization that works with community radio stations to enhance the capacities of listeners by providing them information on government schemes and development programs that help increase their access to health, education, and livelihood. SMART aims to democratize information through the radio, supplemented with a strong and sustained on-ground community engagement. Star RJs with maximum air time and listener following on these radio networks were engaged and trained for the project.
Objective: Creating awareness and busting myths
The objective of the Community Radio pilot in these 4 districts was to generate awareness about PM-JAY and provide information about scheme benefits, disseminate correct information about eligibility criteria, process, address gaps in information, the how-tos and what-ifs, and resolve problems for the community. Through the hugely popular RJ links, the Community Radio stations also provided information about hospitals in the area. The project ran in campaign mode, with the CEO of the state health agency directly briefing the radio stations and ACCESS Health state team providing regular training and real-time resolutions to problems on the ground.
The Community Radio teams were able to address doubts and confusions the beneficiaries had about the scheme, and also mobilized the community and organized camps for enrollment of eligible people into the scheme. “We realized that there was a lack of clarity about the benefits of the Ayushman card, what treatments they could avail, and where. Most people expected this to work only in public hospitals,” says Archana Kapoor, founder of SMART. “The RJs cleared these information gaps that come as roadblocks in availing the benefits of the scheme.”
While RJ links and testimonials of beneficiaries encouraged others in the community to enroll in the scheme and avail its benefits, the outreach activities mobilized and provided end-to-end solutions to beneficiaries. The Community Radio stations set up camps to verify beneficiary details for registering for the Ayushman card, coordinated with the village Common Service Centers, ASHA workers, Gram Pradhans, district hospitals, and more to locate and contact eligible candidates for the scheme and narrowcasted scheme information in remote corners where their network may not have reached eligible beneficiaries. The project has also resulted in increased enrollment for the Ayushman card.
For SACHIS, the testimonials from the ground provided direct feedback on the scheme. The success of the Community Radio project points at a need to continue engagement with this hyperlocal media of informing, educating, and communicating with beneficiaries in other districts of Uttar Pradesh on an ongoing basis.