New Media and Health Communication: Communication Strategies in Malaria Control in Nigeria

New Media and Health Communication: Communication Strategies in Malaria Control in Nigeria

Nwachukwu Andrew Egbunike (University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-591-9.ch010

Abstract

Malaria is endemic in the tropics and is responsible for a very high infant mortality, killing more than 3,000 children in Africa daily. The Nigerian government’s control measures are targeted at nursing mothers and children. However, a significant portion of the population–the youth–are also very vulnerable. The new media are gradually gaining ground as a dependable channel of meeting the communication needs of young Nigerians. This chapter discusses how the potential associated with the Internet and social networks can be incorporated in the campaign for the Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) by Nigerian youth. It also proffers solutions and recommendations based on the concept of participatory development communications.
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Introduction

Malaria is endemic in Nigeria (97%) and is responsible for one out of every five childhood deaths (United Nation Population Division: 2002). Nigeria also ranks first among the thirty-five countries that are responsible for 98% of the total malaria deaths world-wide and contributes 96% to the total number of malaria cases (Roll Back Malaria: 2008). Malaria is responsible for the morbidity and mortality from illnesses such as respiratory infections, diarrhea, iron-deficiency diseases, anemia and malnutrition (Opiyo et alOpiyo et al: 2007). Onwujekwe et al (2005) stated that malaria is the number one public health problem in Nigeria.

Malaria control is now a major global development priority and is critical in the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. It is undeniable that malaria imposes a huge economic burden on the nation’s health development. Ukwoma and Muanya (2009), summarises the cost implication of the endemic disease to individual and government thus:

Cost to individual and their families include: purchase of drugs for treating malaria at home; expense for travel to and treatment at dispensaries and clinics; lost days at work; absence from school; expenses for preventive measures; expenses for burial in case of deaths. Cost to government include: maintenance of health facilities; purchase of drugs and supplies; public health interventions against malaria, such as insecticide spraying or distribution of treated bed nets; lost days of work with resulting loss of income; and lost opportunities for joint economic ventures and tourism.

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Communication And Malaria Control

The principles of participatory development communication have great potential to be applied to the malaria control strategy. Development communication is a specialist field that has emerged around the mid-1960s with the emphasis on using news reporting for constructive and developmental ends. According to Folarin (1998), its focus is on long-term development. It is characterised by people's rights to information and to a voice, freedom of all communication channels, participation, ownership of knowledge, accountability of governments and societies, and people's improved ability to put informed choices into practice (Dunn: 2005).

Communication needs to be included in the process of malaria control right from the start, not as an afterthought or a discretionary appendage. This means thinking strategically about communication from the planning stages through to implementation and evaluation.

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