Research Key

Community Radio Contribution to Health Promotion In Response To Covid-19 Pandemic 2020/2021

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1.0. Background to the Study

Community radio has played and is still playing major roles in the communication of countries today. It mainly serves a definite community and is another form of public service broadcasting. It reflects the culture, ideology and thoughts, norms, and values of a particular community. Community radio as the media of citizens of a particular community has become a popular and new opportunity for both the media practitioner and grassroots people (The International Technology Management Review, Vol. 6 (2017), No. 3, 94-102).

Community radio is that kind of radio which is owned and controlled by a community and always broadcasts programs that are related to that community’s interest. It helps to ensure people’s right to information and community participation by expressing the voice and thoughts of grassroots people in the development process.

The media is an important tool for communication, by communicating to a large number of people, it helps to change people’s behaviors, shape their beliefs, perception, attitudes, through the amount and type of information they send out especially in the area of health.

The local and international media play vital roles when it comes to health, by providing essential health information, which is then relayed to the public in readily accessible formats through a variety of media channels.

The community radios, by communicating with people in large numbers, can have a huge impact on the public’s knowledge, beliefs, perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors, not only as individuals but also as families, communities, and wider society.

The power and reach of community radio can influence all aspects of people’s lives, including health and well-being, and can be harnessed to promote health by informing, motivating, and empowering people to change behavior and providing a platform advocating healthier policies and civic action.

The mass media in the form of radio and television is an important way of reaching out to the targeted publics. Besides informing the public about new diseases, and where to get help, they also keep the population updated about health campaigns.

The community radio can empower the rural population on how to fight against some diseases which can be prevented through vaccinations, inform about the availability of a new product or service, teach new health skills, promote new health behaviors, organize listening groups and increase community acceptance of health workers.

There are hundreds of viruses that belong to the coronavirus family. However, only six (229E, NL63, OC43, HKU1, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV) have been reported to cause mild to severe respiratory tract infections in humans (Su S, Wong G, Shi W et al, 2016).

Among them are severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) reported in November 2002 and middle east respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) reported in September 2012, which emerged in the human population from animal reservoirs and caused severe respiratory illness with high mortality rates (Zhong NS, Zheng BJ, Li YM, et al, 2003) and (Wang N, Shi X, Jiang L, et al, 2013). Once again, a novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) has emerged and caused an infectious disease called coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) (Lai CC, Shih TP, Ko WC, et al 2020).

The virus was first identified and reported from Wuhan city of China in December 2019, (Du Toit A, 2020). The SARS-CoV-2 is highly contagious, spread globally in a short period of time, and was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020. As of 18th April 2020, 10:00 am CEST; WHO reported more than 2.1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 142,229 deaths in 213 countries, areas, or territories.

The most affected countries with more than 30,000 confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 are the United States of America, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, China, Iran, Turkey, Belgium, the Russian Federation, Canada, and Brazil.

However, the number of cases continues to rise throughout the globe and became a serious menace to public health. COVID-19 is majorly affecting many countries all over the world, whereas Africa is the last continent to be hit by the pandemic.

However, Africa is expected to be the most vulnerable continent where COVID-19 spreading will have a major impact (Moore M, Gelfeld B, Okunogbe A, et al, 2020). The continent confirmed its first case of COVID-19 in Egypt on 14th of February, 2020, and from sub-Saharan Africa, the first case was reported in Nigeria on 27th of February, in an Italian patient who flew to Nigeria from Italy on 25th of February, 2020, (WHO 2020, NCDC,2020).

As of 18th April 2020, 10:00 am CEST; Africa CDC reported, 19,895 confirmed cases, including 1,017 deaths and 4,642 recoveries, from 52 African countries, while two countries (Comoros and Lesotho) were still virus-free (CDC, 2020).

Interestingly, most of the identified cases of COVID-19 in Africa have been imported from Europe and the United States, rather than from the original COVID19 epicenter China, (Ruth M, 2020). The continent’s weak health care system and a large immunocompromised population owing to the high prevalence of malnutrition, anemia, malaria, HIV/ AIDs, tuberculosis, and poor economic discipline, make it distinct from the other continents that have experienced COVID-19 to date.

Experts also anticipated that under these circumstances the pandemic in Africa could be challenging to control, and the consequences could be dismal. On the other hand, there is no drug/vaccine currently available to treat COVID-19; therefore, implementation of precautionary measures to contain the spread of this virus is being practiced throughout the globe; which includes social distancing, isolation and quarantine, community containment, national lockdowns, and travel restrictions.

So far, these measures are helping to control and reduced the spread of COVID-19; but subsequently hit the global economy and thereby pushing the nations towards recession. African economies were already struggling when COVID-19 hit the continent; which could further amplify the economic crisis.

A unique COVID-19 response needs to be developed for Africa, where all these issues which make the continent more vulnerable and different from the rest of the world, will be taken into consideration.

Today, health communication is considered to be an integrated part of crisis health response. Access to a language that is easily understood and culturally appropriate is part of the responsibilities of community radios. Establishing communication and access to reliable information can facilitate health recovery and the prevention of health-threatening diseases.

This study will be looking at the impact of health messaging from the Bonakanda radio, a community-based radio in Buea- South West Region of Cameroon, on its listenership. This station serves as an important influence in the community, as well as an effective tool for communicating health messages. As such the community relies (to an extent) on its broadcast to provide them with information about health, religion, and important community events.

The mass media in the form of radio is divided into commercial radios, public radios, private as well as community radios, but this publication focuses more on community radios and the role it plays in the community it serves especially in terms of health.

Existing research on the history of community radio starts in different places and time periods. Some scholars define the history of community radio practices geographically, while others begin in specific communities Lewis (1984) and Rennie (2006).

The flourishing process of today’s country community radios has begun some 50 years ago in Latin America. Although there may be competing claims, it is widely accepted that the world’s first community radio stations started in Bolivia during a tin miner’s strike around 1947, using some of the emergency strike funds to pay 27 local radio stations, offering union members and family’s access to the airwaves and opportunities for social benefits.

Meanwhile, in California, the Pacifica foundation set up the USA’s first ‘listener-sponsored radio station in 1950, a variation on community radio that is still the most common model in North America today. Following these events, the quest for community radio starts taking it roots around the world.

During the political radicalism in the 1960s and 1970s, community radio activists began to lobby for access to the airwaves across the developed countries through both legal lobbying and less than legal broadcasting.

Australia in 1972 began licensing community radio stations and now stands out as one of the healthiest community media sectors in the world. While in Africa and Asia, it was slower, though the stations are widespread now in Southern Africa, India, Philippines, Vietnam, and beyond. The nature of community radio may vary from country to country, and station to station, but they have some elements that are consistent everywhere. All community radios in the world are committed to each of these elements and if it lacks any of these, then it is not a community radio

  • Community development and not for profit-making,
  • Established and run primarily by volunteers and activists and not paid staff
  • Serving a distinct local community
  • Giving opportunities to the airwaves to under-represented voices.

How media (community radio) contents influence public perception.

Media is all about content, different forms of communications, including messages in the mass media, have a lot of influence on our perceptions, behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs towards a particular situation.

The media has a dominating effect on a person’s perception, causing them to either react positively or negatively towards that issue. It can be said that the media uses the “Agenda setting effect” to influence a person’s perception. The media can shape person perceptions about a multitude of things from what they buy, the people they admire (and those they don’t), perceptions on political issues like health and immigration, to social issues focused on diversity facets like race, gender, sexual orientation, and age.

Because community radios are another form of media, they use their contents to influence the perception of the community they serve by placing more value on the issues at stake especially in the area of health since one of their objectives is to promote good health.

Because the people of that community depend on the radio for information (Dependency theory), they tend to believe that whatever comes from the radio is or may be true, as such they change their perception towards something, but not in all situations. Hollander (1995) suggests that listening to talk shows may increase a person’s perception. Community-based radio stations have the potential for significant positive impacts on the health of a community.

In the case of the Covid-19 pandemic in Africa, community radio stations are broadcasting programs on the Covid-19 in local languages or dialects. The Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic is a defining global health crisis, which started in December 2019, in Wuhan, China. It was declared a global pandemic by WHO (world health organization), on March 11, 2020. Since its outbreak, the media has been circulating information which is either to create awareness, inform, or educate the public.

In this article, the community radio of Buea (RADIO BONAKANDA), will be used, meaning a specific community radio station in Buea that broadcasts health-related information, specifically aiming to improve the living standard of the local people and reducing poverty in the society.

The community radio in Buea (radio Bonakanda) has been influencing the local population by doing microprograms and radio spots, which they play almost every day. The Fako Women Development Association (FWDA), the Government, Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), specialized government projects like PNDP, SOWEDA, Mount Cameroon National Park, and other organizations like UNESCO, WWF, UNDP, WHO etcetera are examples of stakeholders that have been involved in assisting community radio Bonakanda in health promotion.

According to the chief of programs Chief Ndongo Emmanuel, “health is our major priority on our editorial list and we have more than 20 health programs and we mostly focus on the preventive measures, because saving lives is our first objective.

We use the radio to inform the local population of the outbreak of diseases, like in the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, we do radio spots which we play almost every day to inform people, educate them on the necessary measures to take in order to stay safe, and to overcome that misunderstanding or disbelief that Corona is real” .

The need for community radio was expressed in 1997, by the Fako Women Association with the objective of improving the living standards of the people especially women, and bringing education closer to the girl child. In 2001, UNESCO offered 15 radios to Cameroon out of which one was given to the Fako women upon their application. The community radio was created by the Ministry of communication and equipped by UNESCO, and on the 4th of August 2004, the radio went operational, with health, agricultural, cultural and educational programs.

However, the purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the use and impact of community-based radio Bonakanda as a health promotion media in response to a health crisis with a focus on the COVID-19 Pandemic.

1.2. Statement of the problem

Today, a significant number of community radio practices are carried out on the basis of education, entertainment and information. Widespread community radio practices are overlooked. The dominant position of today’s technology, especially internet technology, in our social life has led to the domination of images and visual cultures.

The traditional value of “the word” and its influence on the people has gradually been pushed back into the background, especially in communicating health to the masses, thereby giving much attention to political, economic, entertainment, pushing back health which is a vital part of human life.

Knowing the importance of health to the masses, as well as the importance of community radio to the community, and the decline attention given to it due to the advent of other media outlets, how then can we work to improve on community radio content and promote health?

With the daily reports on the number of deaths, cases undergoing treatment, and cases with the Covid-19 virus around the world and in all the media platforms including community radio, we still find a lot of people not respecting the social measures put in place.

What could be the problem for such occurrence or are the community radios not using the appropriate tools in educating the masses in adopting preventive measures against the spread of Covid 19?

The new variance of COVID 19 has come with more devastating effects, unfortunately, people in Africa and around the world still walk around without their nose masks, hand sanitizers, still gathering in places and movements. Is it that community radios are faced with challenges in educating the masses on preventive methods against Covid 19?

1.3.  Objectives of the Study:

This study has the following objectives

1.3.0.   General Objective

The main objective of this study is to examine the role Community Radio plays in the adoption of preventive methods in the fight against the Covid-19 Pandemic in 2020/2021.

1.3.1.   Specific Objectives

Specific objective number one:

  1. To identify the tools use by Community Radio in educating the masses on preventive methods against Covid-19 in 2020/2021.
  2. Specific objective number two
  3. To document the challenges faced by Community Radio in educating the masses on adopting preventive methods against Covid-19.




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