Sesame Workshop in India’s initiative ‘Building Communities of Change’: Improving knowledge on diarrhea prevention and management in Madhya Pradesh

India is home to the largest number of children in the world, including 20% of children aged 0–4 years old[1]. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 2.3 million children below the age of five years die in India each year. Of these, 2-3 lakh deaths are attributable to diarrhea alone. Although the link between sanitation and health has been reiterated countless times, diseases like diarrhea which are directly attributable to contaminated surroundings continue to rise. There has been little improvement in the overall reduction of child mortality in India.

In its efforts to address the issue of diarrhea prevalence, Sesame Workshop in India (SWI), through its flagship program Galli Galli Sim Sim (GGSS) commenced a mobile-based initiative in Shivpuri, Madhya Pradesh called, “Building Communities of Change”. The initiative aimed to demonstrate reduction of diarrhea incidences by improving awareness and attitudes on water, sanitation, and personal hygiene. The program disseminated specific messages on diarrhea prevention and management through radio episodes with specific messaging on preventive measures which need to be taken to avoid diarrhea. The program used an amalgamation of radio, mobile technologies and the popular GGSS Muppets to improve access to children’s educational content and help prevent diarrhea in marginalized communities. The radio episodes were made available on AIR Shivpuri and 100.2 MHZ (FM) and to specific communities through 8 community radio stations to ensure maximum reach.

According to Sashwati Banerjee, Managing Director, Sesame Workshop in India, “The learnings from one of our previous project- The Radiophone Project has shown that technology need not be high end always; to reach out to deeper communities often we need to look at affordable and accessible options. Providing children with access to engaging content through simple tools like a basic mobile phone and radio can improve their educational and developmental outcomes. Taking these learnings as a foundation, we expanded the Radiophone Project to Shivpuri to engage children using basic technologies and address the concerns about sanitation and hygiene and in turn impact diarrhea prevalence in the region. Through this program, we are also targeting the Millennium Development Goal 4 – reducing mortality in children under the age of 5 by two-thirds. The initiative has received a positive response from the community and we hope that the messages of sanitation have reached out to deeper communities. We will be conducting an impact research soon to look back at the change accomplished in the community.”

SWI launched the initiative in Shivpuri in November 2014, by introducing quality audio content on health and hygiene delivered to the communities through the medium of radio. The comprehensive program involved the production of 14 new GGSS radio episodes focused on diarrhea prevention and management which were aired on AIR Shivpuri and on community radio stations. In order to ensure last mile connectivity, SWI introduced the Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) through which people could call on a toll-free phone number and listen to these episodes. This activity witnessed a phenomenal response with more than 6500 calls received in a short span of three months. The radio episodes and the IVRS number were also publicized through regular auto announcements and on-ground engagement facilitated by a community mobilizer, which further prompted the communities to tune in to the informative radio show or listen to the messages through the toll-free phone number.

Research to assess the impact of the program will soon be conducted. Researchers will specifically measure the impact outcomes assessing the percentage of children with improved practices on personal hygiene, percentage of children with improved knowledge and attitudes around safe drinking water (water that is boiled, filtered and kept in covered & clean containers), percentage of families with improved practices on treating water at home and percentage of families with improved practices on storing drinking water safely.

While the impact of the program is yet to be mapped, the positive stories from Shivpuri households reflect that change can be accomplished by simple, engaging tools. Diarrhea prevention is of grave concern as children under five years of age are one of the most vulnerable groups affected by diarrhea and related deaths. There is an urgent need to bring a behavioral shift in our society in order to address the alarming rate of deaths among children due to such diseases.

About Sesame Workshop India Trust

Sesame Workshop India Trust is leading the movement to change the educational paradigm through its innovative projects that puts children at the center of development. Under our flagship initiative Galli Galli Sim Sim, we work in low resourced classrooms and communities to bring children and their caregivers’ language and strategies that have proven impact on their literacy, numeracy, physical wellbeing and social emotional skills. Since 2007, we have reached over 5 millionchildren across India in partnership with the government, other nonprofit organizations and the corporate sector in our mission to help kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder.

For further information, please contact-

Jigyasa Nawani, +91 9873019224

[1] The situation of children in India: a profile. New Delhi: UNICEF India; 2011.(http://www.unicef.org/india/The_Situation_of_Children_in_India_-__A_profile_20110630_.pdf, accessed 12 August 2014).