Social and Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC), Purulia, West Bengal

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SBCC Purulia was started in 2006 under the aegis of the District Magistrate, Purulia, in 12 blocks, 107 Gram Panchayats and 1722 villages. Purulia suffers from very poor human development indicators among the districts of West Bengal. Poverty and lack of awareness coupled with the absence of public health interventions have created apathy among the people and a reluctance to adopt any behaviour change.

The total population of Purulia is 2,927,965. Almost 40% of the population is considered socially excluded. About 21% of them are scheduled castes and 24% are tribes. Purulia suffers from very poor conditions in terms of hygiene, poverty, and lack of safe drinking water, resulting in major health problems such as diarrhoea, malaria, filaria, TB, anaemia, and others. Poor child birth and nutrition standards lead to high IMR and MMR. Open defecation, lack of sanitary latrines, poor educational standards for girl children, and poor awareness of HIV/AIDS also compound Purulia’s health and development problems.

The key staff member in SBCC Purulia’s approach is the animator, who, in consultation with the Gram Pradhan, gets assigned to 200 households a month within a particular area. The animator goes to a household, gathers as many members as possible, and then uses flip charts to convey the five key messages of SBCC. This is called Inter Personal communication (IPC), which is the corner stone of the project. IPC is considered the most important vehicle of communication to reach out to people, even in the most interior locations in the district, and deliver the messages of SBCC through personal contact.

The key messages of the SBCC programme are (a) hand washing (wash hands with soap before taking meals and after defecation) (b) breastfeeding (colostrum feeding immediately after giving birth and exclusive breastfeeding up to six months) (c) Girls education (convince parents to improve girls’ education) (d) HIV / AIDS (protect young people from HIV/AIDS through awareness) (e) sanitation (use of sanitary latrine at home).

While working in a particular village, the animator identifies interested and enthusiastic persons among villagers who can convey the SBCC messages. He also talks to opinion leaders like the Gram Pradhan, and Panchayat members. The other points of contact are ICDS, ASHA, other health workers, teachers, SHG members etc. Taking them together, the animator forms a Village Information Centre (VIC). VIC is a village level forum to continue community dialogue on safe practices after the animator has moved to other villages.

The program has had substantial impact on the community. In 2004, the use of sanitary latrines was less than 3%, whereas in March 2012 it had increased to 30%; the practice of hand washing with soap was less than 1% in 2004, while the present level is 37.3%, the percentage of colostrum feeding was as low as 37%, now it is about 80%. In 2006, the girl child education rate was 27%, which is now 72%.

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