New Delhi: Digital technology can boost family planning, maternal and child health, and nutrition outcomes among rural communities, experts said at a workshop organised on Tuesday to mark the national nutrition week being observed from September 1-7. The workshop was held to discuss the results of USAID-funded project Samvad, run across six states by non-profit group Digital Green. USAID (India) health office director Sangita Patel said,
Samvad project is demonstrating how technology platforms, if used appropriately, can accelerate social and behavioural change in rural communities.
The project is helping in bringing about a change in social behaviour related to family planning, maternal and child health, and nutrition in rural communities through video and audio messages. These communication tools demonstrate good health and nutrition practices through the use of locally relevant content and language.
The project has reached five lakh rural-women directly and 1.9 million families and community members indirectly in Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, and Assam, said a statement from Digital Green. It claimed,
More than half of all viewers have adopted at least one healthy practice, with three to four practices being the average. Government partners have also observed increased attendance in village health and nutrition days and immunization days since the video project began.
Ritika Pandey, the project director of Digital Green, said the approach of the project is to layer the existing government systems with technology solutions, instead of creating a parallel system. Experience shows that individuals are much more open to accepting information when it comes directly from people they identify with and trust, she said.
A key factor of the project is that instead of bringing in experts from very different socioeconomic backgrounds, the videos provide information directly from peers of the target group, Ms. Pandey said.