Aamir Khan lends his charisma to the fight against malnutrition
When the Prime Minister reacted to data in a hunger and malnutrition report a few months ago -- which put the figure of underweight children under five years at 42 per cent -- calling it a ‘national shame', it was an admission of the extent of the problem.
But what it also did was for the government along with others to seek a solution. Public awareness, both in urban and rural India on this critical and complex issue of malnutrition is limited.
This is where a mass media campaign, slated to roll out soon, will play a prominent role. Film actor Aamir Khan will participate in the awareness campaign along with a core group which includes the Citizens' Alliance against Malnutrition, the United Nations Children's Fund and poet-ad guru Prasoon Joshi. The group is working with the government to design, produce and launch a campaign to alert and educate people in the simplest possible ways.
Using print, television, radio spots and outdoor advertising, simple, yet, appealing messages with ‘an urban-rural flavour' will be put to parents, and other caregivers. Here, Prasoon Joshi's and Aamir Khan's creative genius and mass appeal are expected to be the clinchers. While this is certainly not Joshi's first public service campaign – he's been associated with the Pulse Polio and UN Millennium Goals for eradicating poverty campaigns, among others – Khan, one of the more socially aware individuals in the film industry, has also done his homework. As the UNICEF Ambassador “he has made every effort to fully understand the issue”.
Khan's personal appeal promises to go a long way. Take the case of Parineeta Singh from Delhi. When she saw a report in a daily newspaper that her favourite star was in the city to shoot a film, she got really excited. The report talked about an ad campaign -- 'Kuposhan (the Hindi word for malnutrition) Bharat Choro' -- which shows Khan interacting with children and telling them, “In 1947 India got Independence, but it's 2011 and we've not got independence from kuposhan”. Parineeta had not heard of kuposhan but decided to look it up on the Internet. “The more I read, the more I was drawn to the subject. I had never thought that malnutrition was so widespread in our country. One shocking statistic really blew my mind – nearly half of the children under five in India are underweight, worse than in some countries in sub-Saharan Africa. I think it's great that Khan will talk about this; we all need to know.”
There are two clear expectations of the campaign. First, to make sure that citizens understand what malnutrition is all about. And second, when people see part of the campaign that talks of interventions such as breastfeeding or complementary feeding or the right nutritional practices for mothers, over time it will create a positive behavioural change. (Women's Feature Service)