Raging Pandemics and Taming Epidemics
The Role of Behaviour Change Communication in India’s Polio Eradication
This article, drawing upon the author’s past research and scholarly writings on communication strategies to prevent, contain, and mitigate pandemics and epidemics, including HIV/AIDS, analyses India’s march towards polio eradication, focusing on the relentless implementation of its macro and micro-level social and behavioural change communication strategies. It discusses the micro-targeting and messaging interventions to achieve large-scale vaccine adherence and behaviour compliance, especially in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar—the last sanctuaries for polio in India. It also analyses how India eradicated polio with relentless social mobilisation, involvement and engagement of local opinion leaders, and an adaptive data-driven strategy. No country, at any time, has utilised the art and science of social and behavioural communication for a greater public good as India did to wipe out polio. This article represents a modest attempt to analyse the communication-centric elements, focusing on the interpersonal and ground-based elements of the polio communication strategy, that contributed to this public health triumph of epic proportions, and represents India’s gift to the world.