Taking it to the people: improving family health in Bihar through radio, TV and community outreach

BBC Media Action worked with the government of Bihar state and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to reduce child mortality, improve maternal health and reduce infectious diseases in Bihar, India.

TV advert Ek Teen Do (One, Three Two) about the benefits of birth spacing.
Social advertising campaigns reinforce messages delivered through a radio series and community health workers.

Our Shaping Demand and Practices for Family Health in Bihar project delivered an innovative, integrated mix of health communication - mobile services, mass media and community outreach - to some of the hardest to reach audiences in the country, on issues including maternal and child health, reproductive health, nutrition and sanitation.

TV, radio and outdoor campaigns

Social advertising campaigns across television, radio and outdoor sites reinforced messages delivered through a long-format radio series.

Ek Teen Do (One, Three, Two), a social advertising campaign across television, radio and outdoor sites, was designed to persuade families to leave a three-year gap between pregnancies, by making the case for the financial benefits spacing births can bring.

Another advertising campaign called Chaar Gaanth (Four Knots), reminded audiences of the things to prepare for when pregnant. Tying knots in a gamchha (a scarf that is ubiquitous in rural India) encourages families to remember to start planning for birth by registering for government services, saving money and identifying a place of delivery and transport as soon as possible.

Reaching out through radio

Khirki Mehendiwali (which translates as ‘Mehendi opens a window’), was a 36-part long format radio programme about critical maternal and child health issues.

A story within a story, the show was presented by a fictional character called Mehendi, a vivacious young woman. Mehendi was joined by a cast of characters: Phunti the tea boy and Dr Anita, the doctor who features on the project’s mobile training course and job aids for community health workers, Mobile Academy and Mobile Kunji.

Listener groups

Over 6,000 women’s listeners clubs across the state have ensured Khirki Mehendiwali is heard and talked about by women and families in difficult-to-reach parts of the state where there is no radio reception.

Street theatre performances, a traditional and much-loved form of entertainment, has been used as an interactive way to engage low-literacy audiences with critical information about family health.

Impact findings

The Ananya project is the subject of a series of academic papers produced by a team from the Stanford School of Medicine, co-authored by BBC Media Action, published in The Journal of Global Health in December 2020. The papers demonstrate that women who had heard and used our health communication materials were twice as likely to take supplements during pregnancy, two to three times as likely to save money and prepare for delivering their babies in a health-care facility, and twice as likely to maintain exclusive breastfeeding for their babies as recommended by the World Health Organization. All these actions contribute to healthier and safer pregnancies, deliveries, newborns and mothers.

You can read the papers in The Journal of Global Health.



Project information

Project name Shaping Demands and Practices

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Dates 2011-2019
Theme Health
Outputs Mobile services Mobile Academy, Mobile Kunji; Kilkari, radio show Khirki Mehendiwali (Mehendi Opens A Window), and multiple public service TV advertisements.  

Pathfinder International, the GSMA Development Fund and Madison World, Government of Bihar