On the face of it, it’s deceptively simple. Pregnant woman across eight districts of Bihar are given 180 iron and folic acid (IFA) tablets to prevent anaemia, a similar number of blood drop-shaped red stickers and a booklet with an outline of a baby for pasting the stickers — one for every tablet consumed.
At the end of the course, the baby is “complete”.
That’s the powerful message the “Khoon Ka Rishta” initiative of BBC Media Action India, the broadcaster’s international charity, seeks to deliver — miss even one tablet and your baby’s at risk of blood deficiency.
“Khoon ka Rishta is an emotive route for an expectant mother to visually see how she is slowly making her own baby as she consumes each tablet; no mother would like to see an incomplete baby and this would act a self-driven push to complete the dose. Using blood drop-like stickers to complete the graphic of the baby is a vivid demonstration and as simple as having a pill,” BBC Media Action India Creative Director Soma Katiyar told IANS.
(“Khoon Ka Rishta” is a common Hindi phrase used to establish the blood relationship between immediate family members — mother, father, child, siblings, et al)
“The Khoon ka Rishta campaign has brought about a significant change in the way expectant women look after their own health and that of the unborn child during pregnancy. It has greatly assisted the expectant woman to see the link between her own health and that of her unborn child,” she added.
Official data paints a grim picture — almost 58 per cent of pregnant women in India are anaemic, with two-third (67 per cent) of women in Bihar suffering from the malady. Anaemia is directly and indirectly responsible for 40 per cent maternal deaths in India.
One of the most effective ways of combating this, and turning the tide in favour of mothers and young children, is by making expecting women and lactating mothers consume IFA tablets. But, while the science is easily understood, its adoption by the targeted beneficiaries is not.
Enter “a simple, doable, disruptive creative communication that tackles anaemia and turns audiences into participants”.
How did the initiative come about?
“It’s part of our ‘Shaping Demand and Practices’ project to improve family health behaviour in Bihar. To achieve this, we adopt a 360 degree approach, which uses communication in non-traditional ways. By using available and appropriate platforms we communicate life-saving messages to women/mothers, her family and the community at large,” Katiyar explained.
The “Khoon ka Rishta” tool was designed for the monthly government-run Village Health and Sanitation Days platform, the key objective being to generate demand for IFA at the point of supply. The key focus of the tool is to enhance risk perception of not consuming IFA tablets and support beneficiaries to ensure compliance.
Explaining the nuts and bolts of the initiative, Katiyar said: “We carried out desk research which brought to light that anaemia during pregnancy is a big challenge in Bihar.
“One of the most effective ways of managing anaemia is through consuming IFA tablets (180 for anaemic pregnant woman). However, as per the 2012-13 Annual Health Survey, only 12 per cent would-be mothers consumed IFA for 100 days (the cycle was later raised to 180) or more.”
Also looked at were various studies and field insights which indicated that although many women start consuming IFA during pregnancy, very few complete the course. This was largely because of side-effects and myths surrounding the IFA and irregular supply, coupled with the lack of understanding on the importance of IFA and low- risk perception of completing the full dose.
“Through this tool, we aim to establish vividly how a would-be mother needs to have enough blood during her pregnancy so that she can support proper growth and development of her unborn child in her womb. For instance it’s a known fact that whatever the would-be mother consumes during her pregnancy has a direct correlation with the development of her unborn child and therefore she needs to take extra care,” Katiyar noted.
BBC Media Action India has been working in India for over 18 years, developing communication outputs that can be scaled and are sustainable.
In the past, it has launched successful campaigns like the award-winning Condom ringtone and the Bulgum Bhai 360 degree campaign for tuberculosis.