Sex and Advertising

Government curbs on condom ads on television will hurt HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns, experts fear

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has restricted the airing of ‘indecent, inappropriate’ condom commercials during the day.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry on Monday restricted cable television networks from airing condom commercials that are “indecent or inappropriate” during the day so that children do not watch them. It is not clear from the wording of the ministry’s advisory whether this implies that no condom advertisement will be aired during the day or only those considered inappropriate.

Amit Katoch, director of broadcasting contents in the ministry and the officer who signed the advisory, declined to clarify and directed Scroll.in to his superiors.

Shweta Purandare of the Advertising Standards Council of India said the body had nothing to do with the ban. “We have not asked for any ban on advertisements,” she said. “Our consumer complaints department had received complaints, but when we looked at the content, we did not see anything objectionable. But complainants were upset that these ads were shown in a family viewing time so we said the [ministry] is in the best position to advise broadcasters.”

In the advisory, the ministry cites the Cable Television Network Rules of 1994, which prohibits the airing of advertisements that “endanger the safety of children or create in them any interest in unhealthy sexual practices”.

The advisory reads, “In view of the above, all TV channels are hereby advised not to telecast the advertisements of condoms which are for a particular age group and could be indecent or inappropriate for viewing by children.”

But Mohan Rao, professor at the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, said that the decision would prove counterproductive. “This is antithetical to the goals of public health especially at a time when data seems to indicate condom use is declining and there is a need to increase it substantially,” Rao said “All non-permanent methods of contraception should be encouraged and there should be more research on diaphragms and female condoms and a push to promote these. Instead, to have this is really quite shocking.”

According to health ministry data, condom use declined 52% over the eight years to 2016.

Commentators also raised questions about the impact of the ban on the fight against HIV/AIDS, including the government’s own campaign.

Condoms off colour

People in India are squeamish about even the suggestion of sex being televised. In June 2014, Dr Harsh Vardhan, who was Union health minister at the time, said the thrust of the campaign against AIDS should not be on condom use as it sent the message that sexual relationships outside marriage were acceptable as long as individuals used protection.

A year later, Barkha Singh, former head of the Delhi Commission for Women, claimed that an advertisement campaign series for Manforce condoms that featured actor Sunny Leone “[served] immorality and bad practice to the audience of the country which is not acceptable in a country of moral values, ethics, religious values and spiritualism renowned as abode of gods around the globe”.

Speaking about the same commercial, Communist Party of India leader Atul Kumar Anjan said that such sexually explicit advertisements would encourage men to commit sexual violence.

Play
An advertisment for Manforce condoms featuring Sunny Leone.

The ministry has reportedly been considering this ban since 2015, when reports emerged that several individuals, including politicians, had objected to increasingly sexualised condom advertisements that depicted individuals having sex for pleasure, instead of using condoms only to prevent sexually transmitted diseases or for family planning.

Yet, as Poonam Muttreja, executive director of the non-governmental organisation Population Foundation of India, pointed out, the government does in fact promote condoms through its own advertisements. It is unclear whether these will also be affected by the ministry’s advisory.

“If there is a problem with an ad, then maybe that ad should be dealt with or reviewed,” Mutreja said, recommending that the health ministry and the information ministry work together to inform young people about sexual and reproductive health, particularly before they become sexually active.

Government ads

Most government advertisements promoting condoms are tamer than the Manforce series, focusing on health and prevention instead of sexuality.

Play

People had lauded a 2010 commercial campaign for Nirodh, a government brand of condoms, simply for showing people using condoms outside marital confines.

Play

Another government campaign that ran in Andhra Pradesh was far more explicit, though not suggestive, about sex and why people should use condoms, particularly if they have multiple sexual partners or engage in homosexual sex.

Play

Retrograde move

Dr Sam Prasad, country programme director of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, described the the action taken by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as retrograde.

In rural areas, television is still the most effective medium for mass communication. “If we cannot use television effectively, how do we percolate the message down to the masses?” Prasad asked. “To attract young people, companies design raunchy advertisement campaigns. But we need to have such campaigns to ensure that people are attracted to the message. It should become part of conversations with families. Otherwise, pornography is the only teacher.”

Prasad spoke of very young people contracting HIV. He said the non-profit had tested 118 youngsters between the ages of 18 and 22 years during the Delhi International Queer Theatre and Film Festival on December 9 and December 10 and four had tested positive. All four admitted to having multiple sexual partners, he said.

A study on the incidence of abortion and unintended pregnancy in India in 2015 showed that 48% of the 48.1 million pregnancies that year were unintended.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

What hospitals can do to drive entrepreneurship and enhance patient experience

Hospitals can perform better by partnering with entrepreneurs and encouraging a culture of intrapreneurship focused on customer centricity.

At the Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, visitors don’t have to worry about navigating their way across the complex hospital premises. All they need to do is download wayfinding tools from the installed digital signage onto their smartphone and get step by step directions. Other hospitals have digital signage in surgical waiting rooms that share surgery updates with the anxious families waiting outside, or offer general information to visitors in waiting rooms. Many others use digital registration tools to reduce check-in time or have Smart TVs in patient rooms that serve educational and anxiety alleviating content.

Most of these tech enabled solutions have emerged as hospitals look for better ways to enhance patient experience – one of the top criteria in evaluating hospital performance. Patient experience accounts for 25% of a hospital’s Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) score as per the US government’s Centres for Medicare and Mediaid Services (CMS) programme. As a Mckinsey report says, hospitals need to break down a patient’s journey into various aspects, clinical and non-clinical, and seek ways of improving every touch point in the journey. As hospitals also need to focus on delivering quality healthcare, they are increasingly collaborating with entrepreneurs who offer such patient centric solutions or encouraging innovative intrapreneurship within the organization.

At the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott, some of the speakers from diverse industry backgrounds brought up the role of entrepreneurship in order to deliver on patient experience.

Getting the best from collaborations

Speakers such as Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director - Medanta Hospitals, and Meena Ganesh, CEO and MD - Portea Medical, who spoke at the panel discussion on “Are we fit for the world of new consumers?”, highlighted the importance of collaborating with entrepreneurs to fill the gaps in the patient experience eco system. As Dr Trehan says, “As healthcare service providers we are too steeped in our own work. So even though we may realize there are gaps in customer experience delivery, we don’t want to get distracted from our core job, which is healthcare delivery. We would rather leave the job of filling those gaps to an outsider who can do it well.”

Meena Ganesh shares a similar view when she says that entrepreneurs offer an outsider’s fresh perspective on the existing gaps in healthcare. They are therefore better equipped to offer disruptive technology solutions that put the customer right at the center. Her own venture, Portea Medical, was born out of a need in the hitherto unaddressed area of patient experience – quality home care.

There are enough examples of hospitals that have gained significantly by partnering with or investing in such ventures. For example, the Children’s Medical Centre in Dallas actively invests in tech startups to offer better care to its patients. One such startup produces sensors smaller than a grain of sand, that can be embedded in pills to alert caregivers if a medication has been taken or not. Another app delivers care givers at customers’ door step for check-ups. Providence St Joseph’s Health, that has medical centres across the U.S., has invested in a range of startups that address different patient needs – from patient feedback and wearable monitoring devices to remote video interpretation and surgical blood loss monitoring. UNC Hospital in North Carolina uses a change management platform developed by a startup in order to improve patient experience at its Emergency and Dermatology departments. The platform essentially comes with a friendly and non-intrusive way to gather patient feedback.

When intrapreneurship can lead to patient centric innovation

Hospitals can also encourage a culture of intrapreneurship within the organization. According to Meena Ganesh, this would mean building a ‘listening organization’ because as she says, listening and being open to new ideas leads to innovation. Santosh Desai, MD& CEO - Future Brands Ltd, who was also part of the panel discussion, feels that most innovations are a result of looking at “large cultural shifts, outside the frame of narrow business”. So hospitals will need to encourage enterprising professionals in the organization to observe behavior trends as part of the ideation process. Also, as Dr Ram Narain, Executive Director, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, points out, they will need to tell the employees who have the potential to drive innovative initiatives, “Do not fail, but if you fail, we still back you.” Innovative companies such as Google actively follow this practice, allowing employees to pick projects they are passionate about and work on them to deliver fresh solutions.

Realizing the need to encourage new ideas among employees to enhance patient experience, many healthcare enterprises are instituting innovative strategies. Henry Ford System, for example, began a system of rewarding great employee ideas. One internal contest was around clinical applications for wearable technology. The incentive was particularly attractive – a cash prize of $ 10,000 to the winners. Not surprisingly, the employees came up with some very innovative ideas that included: a system to record mobility of acute care patients through wearable trackers, health reminder system for elderly patients and mobile game interface with activity trackers to encourage children towards exercising. The employees admitted later that the exercise was so interesting that they would have participated in it even without a cash prize incentive.

Another example is Penn Medicine in Philadelphia which launched an ‘innovation tournament’ across the organization as part of its efforts to improve patient care. Participants worked with professors from Wharton Business School to prepare for the ideas challenge. More than 1,750 ideas were submitted by 1,400 participants, out of which 10 were selected. The focus was on getting ideas around the front end and some of the submitted ideas included:

  • Check-out management: Exclusive waiting rooms with TV, Internet and other facilities for patients waiting to be discharged so as to reduce space congestion and make their waiting time more comfortable.
  • Space for emotional privacy: An exclusive and friendly space for individuals and families to mourn the loss of dear ones in private.
  • Online patient organizer: A web based app that helps first time patients prepare better for their appointment by providing check lists for documents, medicines, etc to be carried and giving information regarding the hospital navigation, the consulting doctor etc.
  • Help for non-English speakers: Iconography cards to help non-English speaking patients express themselves and seek help in case of emergencies or other situations.

As Arlen Meyers, MD, President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs, says in a report, although many good ideas come from the front line, physicians must also be encouraged to think innovatively about patient experience. An academic study also builds a strong case to encourage intrapreneurship among nurses. Given they comprise a large part of the front-line staff for healthcare delivery, nurses should also be given the freedom to create and design innovative systems for improving patient experience.

According to a Harvard Business Review article quoted in a university study, employees who have the potential to be intrapreneurs, show some marked characteristics. These include a sense of ownership, perseverance, emotional intelligence and the ability to look at the big picture along with the desire, and ideas, to improve it. But trust and support of the management is essential to bringing out and taking the ideas forward.

Creating an environment conducive to innovation is the first step to bringing about innovation-driven outcomes. These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott, which is among the top 100 global innovator companies, is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.