Experts call for making use of social marketing to address health issues beyond family planning

kochi, Dec 3: The first global health conference on social marketing (SM) and social franchising (SM) began here today with experts stressing the need to  scale up the use of SM and SF tools to address a wider gamut of health challenges in India, instead of limiting them to just family planning.

In her address at the inaugural session of the conference, Ms. Anuradha Gupta, Additional Secretary and Mission Director of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), said that India was a pioneer in social marketing in the health sector. “But we have not been able to take it to the second level. It is mostly confined to family planning and marketing of contraceptives,” she said.

Experts in healthcare and allied areas from 25 countries are taking part in the three-day meet, the “Global Health Conference on Social Marketing and Franchising”, organised by HLFPPT, a not-for-profit trust promoted by the mini-Ratna Cental public sector enterprise HLL Lifecare Ltd, with the support of Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA), HLL and National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).

Explaining the need to diversify SM and SF initiatives, Ms. Gupta said it was important to contain maternal and child mortality in the country. “We are facing the emerging challenge of non-communicable diseases. There is an urgent need to pay attention to preventing diseases,” she said.

Ms. Gupta said that social marketing is about selling ideas and information that could influence behaviour aimed at addressing the concerns in public health. “Social franchising is the key and we need to appreciate its role in providing consistency of service and ensuring price standardisation,” she said.

Speaking on ‘The Social Marketing of Contraceptives and its impact on World Fertility Trends’, Mr. Philip D Harvey, President of DKT International (a non-profit organisation that designs and operates social marketing and clinical programs for family planning and AIDS prevention in developing countries), said that social marketing programmes have been serving 66 million couples across 67 countries in the world.

Elaborating on the advantages of social marketing, Mr. Harvey said that it uses pre-existing infrastructural skills besides reaching out to a large number of people. Social marketing is cost-effective and a bridge to self-sufficiency. In social marketing, contraceptives are sold and not given away. Social marketing is mostly products and Social Franchising is mostly about providing services, he said.

Dr. M. Ayyppan, Chairman and Managing Director of HLL Lifecare Ltd, said that the initiatives to provide infrastructure for population stabilisation are like the hardware of a computer system. However, the real challenge is the development of the software – to make people believe and accept the need for change or transformation. This is where the role of social marketing in changing the behaviour of people becomes significant, he said.

Ms. Sheena Chhabra, Team Leader, Health Systems Development, US Agency for International Development(USAID); Ms Frederika Meijer, Representative, United Nations Population Fund, India and Country Director, UNFPA, Bhutan; Mr. Guy Stallworthy, Senior Programme Officer, Integrated Delivery,  Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Mr. Sam Sharpe, Country Head, Department for International Development; Mr. Tewodross Melesse, Director General, International Planned Parenthood Federation; spoke.

Ms. Anuradha Gupta released the book ‘Social Marketing in India’ penned jointly by Ms. Nancy Lee, Adjunct Faculty of University of Washington and Mr. Sameer Deshpande, Associate Professor, University of Lethbridge, on the occasion.

Dr. M. Ayyappan welcomed the gathering while Mr. Sharad Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer of HLFPPT proposed the vote of thanks.

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