Health communication to rural populations in developing countries : with special reference to Malawi
The findings of KAP studies and health reports indicate that in spite of continuing efforts by developing countries like Malawi, to raise health awareness among their peoples, the majority of the people remain inadequately informed and are generally found to lack basic knowledge about most prevalent diseases. As a result most people are unable to participate fully in primary health care activities. Two parallel surveys were carried out: (i) on activities of providers of information; and (ii) on information-seeking behaviour of a sample of the public. A health knowledge test was conducted to a sample of the public in order to assess their levels of Aids and bilharzia awareness. On matching the findings from the two surveys the following deficiencies were identified. The major cause of problems was that information provision was fragmented. Conflicting messages were given by different agencies which appeared to compete with each other. Distribution and access to the available information was also found to cause problems. Lack of research-based knowledge among health information providers about information needs and information-seeking behaviour of the people they are planning services for compounds the problems of information provision. Potential solutions include coordinating all activities of health communication from top-to-bottom (i.e. from planning to implementation at the community level). Efforts towards strengthening extension services, consolidating and repackaging of information, and consolidating of health grey literature are argued to be appropriate. Promoting use and marketing of the available information among the rural populations is also argued to be appropriate.