A Critical Examination Of The Challenges Of Mass Media Public Health Communication In Rural Communities
This study was carried out on the examination of the challenges of mass media public health communication in rural communities using Umuoyo community, Nsukka, Enugu State as a case study. The survey design was adopted and the simple random sampling techniques were employed in this study. The population size comprise of residents of Umuoyo community, Nsukka, Enugu State. In determining the sample size, the researcher purposefully selected 113 respondents and 85 were validated. Self-constructed and validated questionnaire was used for data collection. The collected and validated questionnaires were analyzed using frequency tables, and mean scores. The result of the findings reveals that rural communities do not have adequate access to public health information through mass media. The study also revealed that the factors mitigating against effective pubic health communication through mass media comprises of lack of adequate government support for the activities in the area of health campaigns, high cost of mobilizing the rural populace for positive health action, other of illiteracy and high cost of producing health programmes, lack of articulated communication policies on the implementation of community media in Nigeria, corruption in government circles affects the effectiveness of mass media health broadcasting, poor access to mass media appliance by community residents, poor audience coverage, and poor network signal. Therefore, it is recommended that government at all levels and the private sector should provide adequate infrastructural facilities in the rural areas to improve the effectiveness of media services.
1.1 Background of the Study
The mass media have been called on to play a major role in promoting health for all. Some have taken up this challenge with ‘evangelical enthusiasm without regard to the decades of research and experience in the use of mass communication for public health education(Anaeto, 2017). The success of mass media in the commercial sphere is often thought to be directly applicable to in¬influencing health behaviour, although advertising usually aims at modifying pre-existing patterns, whereas public health programmes are often concerned with changing deeply rooted attitudes and behaviours (Chemwaina, 2019). According to Gilluly(2009), the picture of mass communication in public health is not completely bleak. Skilfully prepared media may result in facts learned and relatively neutral attitudes altered. Notably, it is the duty and responsibility of the media to gather information from the environment (Surveillance function), interpret this information (Correlation function), and mobilise the people (Mobilisation function) against an issue, situation or a movement and even entertain them (Entertainment function). As part of the functions of the mass media, public health communication is a preventive measure of communication, where health messages are disseminated using media technologies and organisations for the purpose of creating awareness about diseases and ailments in both rural and urban communities.
However, it seems the Nigerian mass media has done very little in their responsibilities to enlighten people(especially rural dwellers) and make them conscious of their health and the diseases around them. Sixsmith et al. , seem to believe that the media have not been effective in giving attention to health protection, prevention and treatment as well as health promotion and awareness in rural areas. Even issues on food and nutrition that recommend what people should eat, what exercises they should do to avoid heart related diseases and obesity appears to have gotten very little focus from the media, and so it leads to the thought that the growth and development of health communication in rural communities in Nigeria may be staunted, as media practitioners and organisations could be said to have treated health communication unimportantly. In the light of the above, this study tends to examine the challenges of mass media public health communication in rural communities.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Diseases are among the issues that the human population faces today (Okoro, Nwachukwu, and Ajaero, 2015). It is a growing threat. New diseases occur from time to time, and existing ones evolve new strains, putting the resources, patience, and knowledge of individuals, national governments, international agencies, and non-governmental organizations to the test (NGOs). According to Oyebanji (2007), as cited in Okoro et al (2015), Nigeria’s health situation is extremely poor. Malaria, typhoid, polio, chicken pox, diarrhea, guinea worms, and measles, among other diseases, affect thousands of people (both adults and children).
Each year, there are more and more cases of these diseases, indicating that individuals are either not learning the messages concerning these illnesses, or unable to act on them. According to Dada (2018), many people are dangerously ignorant of the symptoms and consequences of these illnesses. However, information plays an important role in both preventing and minimizing the effects of such diseases on individuals, families, communities, and society as a whole. Hence, good health information dissemination through mass media targeted at providing knowledge about health-related issues will aid in the improvement of people’s health, particularly those in rural areas who suffer from poor health practices, severe illnesses, and disabilities (Krough, Ichijo, and Nonaka 2015). However, serious concerns and issues persist in most Nigerian rural communities in the areas of public health, family planning, communicable and noncommunicable diseases. This suggests that people in Nigeria have a debilitating quality of life as a result of a lack of awareness about the majority of illnesses. It is therefore natural that, in such critical circumstances, they will seek valuable information about these health issues from reliable sources (Omoera, 2016).
According to Onabanjo (2015), the mass media(especially TV/radio) has positioned itself as the most accessible and information-patronized medium of mass communication in rural communities. As a result of its immediacy, ubiquity, and ability to simultaneously reach a wide, dispersed, and anonymous audience, it provides an ideal means of keeping people up to date on current events through a variety of programmes.
The mass media program includes news, interviews, conversations, magazines, documentaries, dramas, and health-related activities. In particular, in the field of health, most campaigns for healthy living, such as child immunization, family planning, raising awareness about the deadly pandemic, and the need to avoid some health hazards, such as unprotected sex and cigarette smoking, are communicated to the populace via mass media programmes (Ugande 2006, cited in Okwonn 2016).
It is against this background that mass media stations in Enugu State have on their menu a variety of health programmes with the sole aim of creating awareness about health pandemics in the state, highlighting the activities of government and non-governmental organizations in the fight against the dreaded diseases.
However, the effectiveness of the mass media in disseminating public health information in rural communities has been hampered by various challenges. According to Okwonn (2016), such challenges has circulation of health information through mass media, and on the other hand has limited the access of rural dwellers to vital health information. In view of the above, this study focuses on the challenges of mass media public health communication in rural communities.
1.3 Objective of the Study
The overall aim of this study is to critically examine the challenges of mass media public health communication in rural communities. Hence, the study will be channeled to the following specific objectives;
- Determine whether rural communities have adequate access to public health information through mass media.
- Identify the factors mitigating against effective pubic health communication through mass media.
- Ascertain the opinions of rural residents on how those challenges can be remedied.
1.4 Research Questions
The research is guided by the following research questions:
- Does rural communities have adequate access to public health information through mass media?
- What are the factors mitigating against effective pubic health communication through mass media?
- What are the ways through which those challenges can be remedied?
1.5 Significance of the Study
Prior to the outbreak of the global pandemic “Covid-19”, there has been an ever increasing spread of diseases and maternal mortality in Nigeria, with a great prevalence in rural locations. Despite the residents’ quest for reliable information on these health issues, most of them still have little knowledge about the causes of those health conditions, their mode of transmission, prevention, etc. Hence, this study’s significance cannot be overemphasized as it will be of great benefit to the Nsukka residents, media houses, journalists, the government, students and researchers, etc.
To Nsukka residents, this study will serve as a platform to usher in their quibble over the dissatisfaction obtained when on a quest for vital health-related information and the challenges encountered in the use of mass media services in the area. The study will further enlighten journalists and presenters on the need to simplify their speeches to the very understanding of a typical layman, as there is a majority of uneducated people in rural locations who also quest for vital information about health matters. Additionally, this study will communicate to the government the niggles of rural residents over the dissatisfaction and challenges they experience whenever they need vital health information. Hence, it will call the attention of the government to the various ways to improve rural health broadcasting.
Furthermore, this study will contribute to the current literature in this field and will also serve as a resource for academics, researchers, and students who may want to do future research on this or a comparable topic.
1.6 Scope of the Study
This study is structured to generally examine the challenges of mass media public health communication in rural communities. However, the study will further determine whether rural communities have adequate access to public health information through mass media, identify the factors mitigating against effective pubic health communication through mass media, and ascertain the opinions of rural residents on how those challenges can be remedied. The study will be carried out in Umuoyo community in Nsukka area of Enugu State.
1.7 Limitation of the Study
The following factors poses to be a limitation during the course of this research
Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
The majority of respondents failed to collect the questionnaires, and those who do collect them pay close attention to filling out and returning them, while others do not return theirs at all. Others were less accommodating and may have provided untrustworthy information because they were afraid of being exposed, despite the researcher’s promise that all information would be treated with the utmost secrecy and only for education purposes.
1.8 Definition of Terms
A community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as norms, religion, values, customs, or identity.
The health care system refers to the institutions, people and resources involved in delivering health care to individuals. A health system consists of all organizations, people, and actions whose primary intent is to promote, restore, or maintain health such as hospital systems, patient care, insurance.
This is the study and use of communication strategies to inform and influence individual and community decision that enhance health.
This has been described as the organized means for communicating openly and at a distance, to many receivers within a short space of time.
Effective Communication is defined as the ability to convey information to another effectively and efficiently either with good verbal, nonverbal and written communication skills help facilitate the sharing of information between people within a company for its commercial benefit.
1.9 Organisations of the Study
The study is categorized into five chapters. The first chapter presents the background of the study, statement of the problem, objective of the study, research questions, the significance of the study, scope/limitations of the study, and definition of terms.
The chapter two covers the review of literature with emphasis on conceptual framework, theoretical framework, empirical review, and chapter summary. Likewise, the chapter three which is the research methodology, specifically covers the research design, population of the study, sample size determination, sample size, and selection technique and procedure, research instrument and administration, method of data collection, method of data analysis, validity and reliability of the study, and ethical consideration.
The second to last chapter being the chapter four presents the data presentation and analysis, while the last chapter(chapter five) contains the summary, conclusion and recommendation.
Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation
In this study, our focus was on the challenges of mass media public health communication in rural communities using Umuoyo community, Nsukka, Enugu State as a case study.The study is was specifically carried out to determine whether rural communities have adequate access to public health information through mass media, identify the factors mitigating against effective pubic health communication through mass media, and ascertain the opinions of rural residents on how those challenges can be remedied.
The study adopted the survey research design and randomly enrolled participants in the study. A total of 85 responses were validated from the enrolled participants where all respondent were residents of Umuoyo community, Nsukka, Enugu State.
Based on the findings of this study, the researcher concluded that;
- Rural communities do not have adequate access to public health information through mass media.
- The factors mitigating against effective pubic health communication through mass media comprises of lack of adequate government support for the activities in the area of health campaigns, high cost of mobilizing the rural populace for positive health action, other of illiteracy and high cost of producing health programmes, lack of articulated communication policies on the implementation of community media in Nigeria, corruption in government circles affects the effectiveness of mass media health broadcasting, poor access to mass media appliance by community residents, poor audience coverage, and poor network signal.
- With regards to the challenges identified, rural residents opined that the various ways to remedy the challenges include; improvement of television/radio networks in rural communities, making mass media appliances affordable for low rural dwellers, mass media network should be made accessible across all rural environment, key officers should put a stop to using health issues to carryout political interest, all health related broadcast should be made in a language common among rural residents, and extension of network/Satellite infrastructures in rural communities.
With respect to the findings and the aim of this study, the researchers therefore recommend that;
- Key government officials needs to evolve a viable communication framework that would ensure a practical implementation of rural broadcasting in the country.
- All levels of government should stop paying lip service to the issue of corruption. The monster of corruption must be tacked, especially among government policy makers.
- Government and the private sector should establish viable community broadcast stations in the rural areas.
- Government at all levels and the private sector should provide adequate infrastructural facilities in the rural areas to improve the effectiveness of media services.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What are the barriers to access to healthcare in rural communities?
Limited access to health promotion and disease prevention programs and healthcare services contribute to these health challenges. Examples of social determinants that are barriers for rural communities in accessing healthcare include: Higher poverty rates, which can make it difficult for participants to pay for services or programs
What are the challenges of rural and urban health care delivery?
Communication and language barriers are yet another key challenge in delivering health care in both rural and urban underserved communities.
What is the difference between rural and urban health?
Rural communities experience a higher prevalence of chronic conditions than their urban counterparts. Examples of chronic conditions include heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, stroke, and diabetes. Rural communities also experience higher rates of mortality and disability than urban communities.
What factors influence health in rural communities?
In rural communities, many factors influence health. Rural communities experience a higher prevalence of chronic conditions than their urban counterparts. Examples of chronic conditions include heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, stroke, and diabetes.
What is Mass Communication in public health?
Mass communication is one component of effective public health program implementation (1). It includes news stories (“earned media”), paid media (advertising), and social and digital media (eg, social networking sites, text messaging, mobile applications, websites, blogs) (1).
What is the role of mass media in rural communication?
Mass media refers to communication devices, which can be used to communicate and interact with a large number of audiences in different languages. In the current situation, the role of mass media is very import to upgrade the rural society.
Can mass communication support public health efforts in rural and small towns?
Many REACH/PICH programs had limited experience using mass communication to support public health efforts in rural or small towns. In response, CDC provided individualized training, guidance, and technical assistance.
Can cultural aspects increase mass communication capacity in nonmetropolitan regions?
Incorporating cultural aspects into mass communication efforts can increase the salience of health messages and programs offered in communities. These examples illustrate that it is feasible for public health programs in nonmetropolitan regions to increase internal capacity for mass communication to reach target audiences.