Altaf Ullah Khan
Faizullah Jan
Sayyed Fawad Ali Shah
Publication Date
January 1, 2016

University of Peshawar (Khan, Jan); University of New Mexico (Shah)

"Basic principles of health campaigns and entertainment-education strategies were violated during the production..."

Entertainment-education (EE) strategies have been successfully used in health campaigns for the prevention of different diseases across the globe, especially in under-developed countries. Radio drama is an important instrument of the EE approach. As part of its Learning by Ear project, in 2012-13, Deutsche Welle (DW) radio's (Urdu and Pashto) services aired a series of radio dramas in an effort to change behaviours of the residents of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in Pakistan. This study examines the content of the episodes of one such drama, "Loye Jazbe" ("High Desires"), which aimed at changing behaviours about polio vaccination among its listeners, and evaluates its effectiveness in creating awareness about health and bringing positive changes in social behaviour and general well-being.

The paper begins by exploring the context in which DW developed "Loye Jazbe". In brief, poliovirus remains endemic in 2 countries - Pakistan and Afghanistan - and it is Pakhtun-dominated areas of Pakistan - FATA and KP - where most of Pakistan's cases have emerged. Resistance to the polio vaccine has been attributed to different reasons, and the government and the international community have devised many strategies to address those barriers. Among the media strategies are radio productions, which are particularly suited to populations who lack accessibility to newspapers or cable television and who have low literacy rates.

Radio dramas, in particular, feature EE characters who are created to serve as positive role models, negative role models, or transitional models that start off with poor behaviour and then move to positive, desired behaviours. Some highlights of a review of the literature on EE and social change:

  • Radio dramas have been especially successful as EE strategies because of their ability to involve listeners in the storyline and help the listeners in making reflexive moves about their health.
  • Karmacharya (1999) analysed a theory-based multimedia reproductive health campaign in Nepal that consisted of radio dramas. The researcher found that the dramas helped improve clients' self-efficacy to deal with providers and improved their attitudes towards health services. However, Pant, Singhal, and Bhasin (2002) argue that dramas can only achieve desired goals if attention is paid to "production and reception factors."
  • Also explained here is the theoretical foundation of EE in social cognitive theory; Bandura is cited.
  • Moyer-Guse (2008) argues that EE messages in radio dramas should be designed in ways that involve the audience in the storyline; sub-categories of involvement - identification, wishful identification, similarity, para-social interaction, and liking - are broken down.
  • Formative research, audience segmentation, message development, and theoretical grounding have been demonstrated to be vital foundations of health communication strategies, including EE.

Having provided this backdrop, the researchers move into their study of "Loye Jazbe", which consisted of 10 episodes broadcast on FM stations. Each 5-minute-long episode consisted of 5 scenes. The story revolves around 3 families living in a village where no basic health facilities are available. A key character is Jalal Khan, a feudal lord who is the head of the village. He is against polio vaccination in the village; in fact, no health campaign could achieve its targets in the village due the opposition of the Khan and his family. After a series of events, including his own son falling prey to polio, Khan realises his mistakes and starts supporting health campaigns in the village.

The researchers obtained access to the documents detailing the production process and performed a discourse analysis, which not only helps researchers look at the structure of discourse but also relates structural dimensions of a discourse to the broader social, cultural, and political discourse. This analysis showed, in brief:

  1. The producers did not do any formative research before production of the drama. Formative research would have helped the producers hire writers who understood the cultural nuances of the people living in rural areas of Pakistan and FATA. For example, the drama is based on a stereotypical image on the part of residents of Peshawar, capital city of the KP province, that feudal lords rule villages in rural areas, but feudalism does not exist in the Pakhtun villages. Instead, it is the clergy who are influential in stopping people from vaccinating their children.
  2. "Due to lack of any theoretical guidance, the script failed to deliver the message properly. Bandura's (1986) Social Cognitive Theory posits that an individual is more likely to act on a message if s/he feels the self-efficacy to perform that action. However, the messages delivered by the drama rather than creating self-efficacy, presents common residents of rural areas as dependent on feudal lords, and having no agency."
  3. Among the themes of the drama were those that gave a negative message to the women belonging to the underprivileged community. "The drama associated agency with wealth and conveyed the message that women belonging to wealthy families are empowered to make their own decisions and are educated, whereas women belonging to underprivileged families cannot make their own decisions and are always dependent on their husbands, even to make decisions about their own health."
  4. All the writers and actors were residents of Peshawar. The only common feature between the writers, actors, and the audience was their language: Pashto. However, Pashto as spoken in the urban areas is distinctively different from Pashto spoken in the rural areas of Pakistan and FATA, and the producers hired writers and actors who did not speak Pashto the way the intended audience speaks it. Furthermore, the character of Khan is borrowed from Urdu language dramas broadcast on national television that portray culture in the Punjab and Balochistan provinces of Pakistan.

Reflecting on the findings, the researchers point out that, although the producers managed to create positive and negative characters successfully, the character of villain in the story (Khan) was empowered to an extent that it disenfranchised a protagonist character who wanted to improve health systems in the village. The drama also showed other characters without any agency. "For development and social change there is a need for a futuristic approach that could give the audience hope and reason for action." Furthermore, the drama writers would have done well to include messages that could promote and increase collective self-efficacy, which is the notion that members of a community can unite to achieve their desired goals (Bandura, 2000).

In addition, for various reasons outlined in the paper (e.g., dialect), "the characters remained 'others' to the audience. The producers did not involve members of the target community at any stage of the production process. Involvement of the community members in the production phase could have helped improve the message of the drama." Specifically, the researchers suggest that future EE programming could benefit from the principles of Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) (Israel, Scholz, & Parker, 2005). CBPR is a process by which the community members (in this case, the intended audience) and organisational representatives (in this case, producers) equitably contribute expertise and share decision making and ownership of data (Israel, et al., 2008). Involving community members in the dramas and letting them perform different characters could have improved the parasocial interaction between the audience and the actors, which is regarded as vital for the success of EE interventions.


The Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol. 24, No. 2 - sent from Sayyed Fawad Shah to The Communication Initiative on April 3 2018. Image credit: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images