Radio and Health Literacy

The Aminata Maternal Foundation (AMF) is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) based in Australia. It strives to improve maternal health outcomes for women in Sierra Leone. The organization, through contributions by the supportive Australian community and other compassionate well-wishers, intends to impact the country’s healthcare positively. Its primary objectives are to improve the well being of women and children and increase the allocation of medical resources. Besides, AMF aims to contribute towards lowering the high infant and maternal mortality rates in Sierra Leone (“Aminata Maternal Foundation,” 2019). Its infant and maternal mortality rates remain among the highest in the world (“Comprehensive Analytical Profile: Sierra Leone,” 2018). Despite the government interventions to curb the problem, diverse challenges inhibit performance of the overall health system, especially in areas of maternal, reproductive, and child health (“Aminata Maternal Foundation,” 2019). Aminata, a survivor of the Sierra Leone civil war and terrible atrocities, understands the need for lending a hand (“{{ meta.ogTitle }},” 2017). One of the ways of promoting transformative development is considering the role radio plays in enhancing health literacy among underprivileged communities in low and middle-income countries.

Mass Media and Health Literacy

Levels of health literacy vary from one community to another. While the definition of the concept has undergone several changes, some central ideas capture its meaning. Health literacy refers to the degree to which members of a given community can access, process, and understand primary health information and services necessary to make appropriate decisions (Berkman, Davis, & McCormack, 2010, 12). Based on this definition, outcomes related to the health of individuals vary depending on one’s capacity. An excellent example of factors that show the level of health literacy is the communication skills of laypersons and professionals (“Fact Sheet,” n.d.). A low-income country like Sierra Leone encounters situations where a section of the population lacks extensive knowledge about health issues. The people’s limited professional knowledge becomes an impediment that affects interaction and information sharing with service providers.

In order to increase access to professional knowledge of health topics in developing countries, citizens may require a strategic communication tool. For instance, Aminata’s work with the AMF primarily targets mothers in remote areas of Sierra Leone (“Aminata Maternal Foundation,” 2019). Therefore, it implies that the degree of health literacy is meager in rural locations. Aminata hopes to help in the creation of sustainable communities by improving the distribution of health resources. An appropriate strategy for reaching a significant portion of the population in remote areas is through the use of mass media. The term refers to diverse forms and mediums used to communicate or relay information to the general public. Press can reach vast audiences across geographical boundaries. A platform such as radio can help in spreading health information to women and girls in remote parts of West Africa. Thus, AMF can consider incorporation of the method in order to impact healthcare in the region.

Radio is one of the most widely used forms of media in Africa. It can reach a broader target audience at relatively low costs. Many people perceive it as an accurate source given the high level of professionalism associated with personnel working in the media stations. AMF can use radio communication to further contribute to their agenda of impacting health literacy and related outcomes on individuals. It can help communities to share information about factors that affect the quality of their lives. In a country like Nigeria, mass media is a useful source of health information (Okorie, Oyesomi, & Kayode-Adedeji, 2014, 56). Therefore, radio is an appropriate medium of teaching communities in West Africa on available healthcare services.

Radio Use Experience and Effectiveness

Developing nations have to contend with a myriad of challenges that face the sick in the community. While the patients in these countries succumb due to varying reasons, governments often endure similar difficulties in providing quality care services. Some of the problems affecting populations include HIV/AIDs, cancer, as well as maternal and child health issues. The nature of the ailments calls for utilization of vast resources to meet the community’s needs. Conditions such as HIV and cancer are financially, emotionally and socially draining. They take a huge toll on an already disadvantaged and suffering group; thus, it is essential to establish measures that will help to curb their occurrence and spread. AMF can advocate for the use of innovative approaches such as conducting public sensitization through media-based campaigns. Therefore, educating communities about critical illnesses is a strategic empowerment tool that can impact health outcomes.


Sierra Leone has a high rate of new HIV infection. The country has recorded a 7% increment in HIV infections, and 6% rise in AIDS-related deaths since 2010. On average, the nation had 5300 new HIV infections and 2800 deaths caused by the disease in 2016 (UNAIDS, n.d.). 87% of pregnant women living with HIV were undergoing treatment to minimize the likelihood of transmission of HIV to their children. During this period, about 500 kids were affected through mother-to-child transmission (UNAIDS, n.d.). Given the high prevalence rate, the epidemic has become a cause for alarm across the nation. Leaders have acknowledged the need to formulate or adopt a strategic response to curb the scourge. Thus, radio can be one of the approaches to addressing the problem that is threatening the welfare of Sierra Leone and developing countries.

The West Africa communities understand the importance of stepping up in the fight against HIV. Some individuals and groups have taken the initiative to design targeted radio programs in order to increase community awareness about the epidemic and the effect it has had on the population. It is essential for the media to continually remind the public of the need to work towards reducing infection rates in the country. Mostly, information shared through the mass media includes statistics on new infections, the impact of the disease on one’s wellbeing, as well as death rates. By emphasizing on this data, the media hopes to appeal to the human instinct of survival and fear of death. Thus, the radio channel enables individuals to gain more knowledge about HIV.

Despite the dissemination of information through the platform, the rate of infection remains relatively high in low and middle-income countries. Many communities in West Africa continue to suffer from the impacts of HIV/AIDS on society. Mass media is critical in impacting health knowledge, as well as changing people’s attitude and behaviors. For instance, Zambia recorded an increase in condom usage following individuals’ exposure to radio programs about condom and HIV/ AIDS (Zamawe, Banda, & Dube, 2016, 2). Lack of substantial changes in disease’ spread has cast doubt on the effectiveness of methods used. Radio has served as the medium most used in educating community members, especially in developing societies. The ease of access and usage of the device makes it a convenient mass media platform. Although radio has played a crucial role in enlightening the public, it has not yet achieved its overall objectives.

Maternal and Child Birth Issues

One of the global human rights targets is improving maternal, neonatal, and child health. It entails concerns about the welfare of women during the critical phases of pregnancy. The stages of prenatal, childbirth and postpartum period require top quality care to minimize the risks of maternal mortality and morbidity. One out of eight mothers dies during child delivery (“Aminata Maternal Foundation,” 2019). Therefore, it is essential for healthcare systems to make efforts aimed at preventing death and illnesses that may arise during the child giving process. Aminata’s experience while giving birth is an example of the risk that women have to endure. Access to high-quality care enabled her to pull through two deliveries successfully. Based on her real-life experience, AMF focuses on helping mothers in Sierra Leone’s remote areas to deliver their babies safely (“Surviving Kidnap in Sierra Leone,” 2019).  Her reflections are evidence that women who lack similar privileges due to defunct health systems face worse conditions and higher risks during delivery. Hence, there is a need to improve maternal and child’s health in developing countries.

Mass media plays a significant role in raising awareness about issues that affect society. Campaigns conducted through various platforms aim to inform people about opportunities for better and safe healthcare services that can improve the childbearing experience. Data from AMF indicates that one in eight women die as a result of pregnancy-related issues. Besides, women in developing countries like Sierra Leone, women are 200 times more likely to die during childbirth compared to expectant mothers in Australia, America, and UK (“Aminata Maternal Foundation,” 2019). By publicizing such information, radio programs highlight the difficulties that exist in underdeveloped countries. It is crucial for the media to portray problems as they occur, and challenge governments and leaders to take action (Odesanya, & Hassan, & Olaluwoye, 2015, 63). Therefore, radio programs that discuss issues of maternal and child health contribute to changes in the health sector.

Radio is a reasonably active component of mass media that disseminates essential information about the challenges that women endure during pregnancy. It is a viable tool that the AMF can use to educate the Sierra Leone population. There is a need to ensure that people are aware of the many risks that can arise during childbearing. Creating awareness can help motivate the public toward prioritizing systems and policies that consider the urgency of improving healthcare. Besides, when the organization establishes care centers in some remote regions, it is essential to use the radio to inform the public about services offered. Women exposed to a community-oriented mass media campaign in rural areas are more likely to utilize maternal health care services than those who lack exposure. Thus, radio can help lower maternal mortality and morbidity.

Other Health Issues

Cancer is a critical health concern that afflicts populations across the globe. Its impact is significant in developing countries. The inadequacy of human and material resources to fight the pandemic results in loss of lives. Thus, malignant disease is a substantial public health problem in Africa (Stefan et al., 2013, e189). Combating types of cancers such as cervical and breast cancer require governments and the public to take initiatives to facilitate early detection, prevention, and treatment (Sankaranarayanan et al., 2010, 170). One of the ways that people can learn about the essence of the medical processes involved in dealing with the disease is through mass media. Radio offers a platform that enables a large audience to gain crucial information about the killer disease. For instance, a cancer awareness program on air can engage experts to discuss the topic and teach people about the importance of detecting and addressing symptoms early. By incorporating such shows, radio aids in the spread of vital information.

Ignorance is one of the factors that contribute to delays to seek help among marginalized communities. In developing nations, some groups lack access to reliable information and existing high-quality care centers (Zamawe et al., 2016, 2). As a result, they take unnecessarily long periods before seeking help from professional service providers, which limits the likelihood of achieving the desired health outcomes. Diseases like breast and cervical cancer require timely interventions. Thus, radio is one of the ways that organizations like AMF can utilize to sensitize the local populations about the disease since it is the most pervasive platform (Okorie, 2013, 5). A program such as a call-in session can offer insights to callers who have questions about cancer. Listeners can send in their inquiries as well as contribute to the discussion. The periods can focus on topics such as cancer screening processes and facilities that offer education on prevention. Thus, radio can serve as a platform for educating the public on available resources needed to.

Application of Radio to Enhance Health Literacy

AMF aims to increase health literacy levels in Sierra Leone as a way of improving health outcomes. It can borrow ideas from a movement such as the Soul City Institute for Social Justice based in South Africa. The association uses media platform and social mobilization to enhance the life standards of women in the country (“Soul City Institute for Social Justice,” n.d.). Therefore, AMF can rely on media platforms to teach Sierra Leone citizens about various health processes. Sharing material with them through platforms like radio can enable the population to understand primary health information and services. Using media to create awareness among the people is an excellent tool that can empower individuals to develop practices that foster communities’ health status. Therefore, AMF can enhance literacy levels by using radio to reach a vast audience.

An alternative approach that can enhance literacy levels is increasing access and usage of radios. Remote areas in developing countries experience hindrances that prevent people from using communication tools. One of the significant challenges is the unavailability of reliable energy sources in rural regions. Lack of electricity in villages makes individuals to rely on unreliable sources of power. A mass media based strategy will require the organization to consider providing hand-cranked portable AM/FM. These devices can enable people to access useful information at all times regardless of their location. Given that 70% of the population lives in poverty, AMF can also take other initiatives to enhance health outcomes. Emulating an approach such as the one used by Healthy Poverty Action can enable AMF to strengthen the people’s welfare. The former works with health workers, activists, and communities to improve health outcomes (“Health Poverty Action,” n.d.). Thus, the IMF should establish viable approaches that will increase access to the target group.

Overall, AMF is an organization that is dedicated to changing the maternal health status in Sierra Leone. Founded by Aminata, the group hopes to contribute to safe deliveries among women and girls. Developing countries face various challenges that endanger the lives of women during childbirth. Due to inadequate resources and other flaws in the healthcare system, there are high mortality and morbidity rates during childbearing. Some of the strategies used by AMF are raising funds to facilitate access to hospitals and better prenatal and antenatal care. Another viable approach is using mass media platforms like radio to create awareness and share knowledge among community members. Thus, AMF is committed to improving the quality of life in Sierra Leone.



{{ meta.ogTitle }}. (2017). Retrieved from

Aminata Maternal Foundation. (2019). Retrieved from

Berkman, N. D., Davis, T. C., & McCormack, L. (2010). Health literacy: What is it? Journal of Health Communication, 15(S2), 9-19. doi:10.1080/10810730.2010.499985

Comprehensive Analytical Profile: Sierra Leone. (2018). Retrieved from

Fact sheet: Health literacy basics. (n.d.). Quick Guide to Health Literacy. Retrieved from

Health Poverty Action. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Odesanya, Agboola & Hassan, Suleiman & Olaluwoye, David. (2015). Mass Media and Maternal Healthcare: A Critical Discourse

Okorie, N. (2013). Mass media strategies for creating awareness of breast cancer. Public Knowledge Journal, 1-18. Retrieved from

Okorie, N., Oyesomi, K. O., & Kayode-Adedeji, K. (2014). Development journalism, Africa and breast cancer care among women. The International Journal of Humanities & Social Studies, 2, 56-59.

Sankaranarayanan, R., Swaminathan, R., Brenner, H., Chen, K., Chia, K. S., Chen, J. G., . . .  Shin, H. R. (2010). Cancer survival in Africa, Asia, and Central America: A population-based study. The Lancet Oncology, 11(2), 165-173. doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(09)70335-3

Soul City Institute for Social Justice. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Stefan, D. C., Elzawawy, A. M., Khaled, H. M., Ntaganda, F., Asiimwe, A., Addai, B. W., . . .  Adewole, I. F. (2013). Developing cancer control plans in Africa: Examples from five countries. The Lancet Oncology, 14(4), e189-e195. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(13)70100-1

Surviving kidnap in Sierra Leone. (n.d.). Retrieved from

UNAIDS. (n.d.). Sierra Leone. Retrieved from

Zamawe, C. O., Banda, M., & Dube, A. N. (2016). The impact of a community driven mass media campaign on the utilization of maternal health care services in rural Malawi. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 16(1), 2-8. doi:10.1186/s12884-016-0816-0