Bill Gates is continuing “God’s work” in India. By using the new affluence of social networking to exhale the old affluence of social custom and belief. Researchers applying the program are seeking to categorize people and collect information on them about who they trust when it comes to healthcare.
When it comes to forceful health initiatives, especially those sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – India is the new Africa. Yet another Gates-funded initiative seeks to use influence, ferret out true believer health officials, leverage their influence for social manipulation, paint the culture as uneducated and convince them to “get with the health program.”
The ongoing study is described in the paper “Integrating social networks and human social motives to achieve social influence at scale” in the September 15 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Northwestern University Professor Noshir Contractor and his collaborators are studying how to use networks to spread messages about public health knowledge. The idea is to pair social networks with social motives to “close the science gap.” In other words, to put authoritative findings into direct action and overcome cultural caution.
In an earlier project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Contractor surveyed government officials in India to determine which people were most influential both inside their district and among outside districts. By leveraging those influential people, Contractor found that networks could be used to spread “valuable information” about public health. In this Gates-funded follow-up project, Contractor is now exploring how to craft messages for these influential people to spread further.
Researchers cite that the infant mortality rate is 10 times higher in India than in the developed world. But to further illustrate their need to infiltrate the culture using social networking ties with Indian health surveillance workers, they cite another extreme example to highlight superstition.
While clinical trials found that applying an inexpensive topical solution of chlorhexidine to cleanse a newborn’s umbilical cord reduced the neonatal mortality rate by 24 percent, many Indian parents did not receive or follow this information.
Larry Prusak, an independent consultant on “knowledge management” said:
You think you can just tell someone the scientific facts, and that will solve the problem. There is very good evidence that it doesn’t solve the problem at all because personal beliefs interfere.
In the case of chlorhexidine, for example, some parents are hesitant to use it because of deep-rooted traditional beliefs dating back several centuries that encourage parents to apply mustard oil to the umbilical cord. Some parents, they say, worry that breaking the ritual will cause bad luck for their child.
Contractor describes Indians’ superstition, and thus the need to step in:
It’s like the sports fans who always wear the same lucky shirt. You can tell them as much as you want that wearing the same shirt will not help their team, but they are still going to do it.
Noshir Contractor said:
The challenge is not that we don’t have solutions to solve major societal problems, but that we struggle with how to take a known solution and get a large number of people to use it. There is a big gap between what science offers us and what gets applied.
To close this gap, Contractor and his collaborator Leslie A. DeChurch, a professor of psychology at the Georgia Institute of Technology, are combining social networks with knowledge about social motives to influence the adoption of family health innovations. So they surveyed 14,000 family health workers in India. Contractor, among other things, is considered an expert on social networks, structures composed of interactions among individuals or organizations.
Contractor and DeChurch realized that for one person to persuade another person, it is important to have information about how their motives affect what information they believe. They put people in two different categories: the need to be right or the need to be liked. People who want to be right respond more to scientific data and perspectives from well-respected opinion leaders. People who want to be liked respond more to the opinions of people they trust or to whom they feel an obligation, they said. In other words, the use of guilt.
To find out which people fall into each category, Contractor is leading a survey of 14,000 family health workers in India. The paper-based survey involves family health workers for the Indian government as well as several non-profit organizations and development partners.
We are asking them about who they go to for advice on family health solutions as well as questions that will help us assess the extent to which these people are driven by the need to be right or the need to be liked. Based on those characteristics, we can identify who is most likely to influence them and what message is most likely to influence them.
The results of the survey will be implemented in a digital dashboard that Contractor calls the “Do Board.” Members in a technical support unit from the NGO Care India (partnered with Merck, targets poor women) will possess the Do Boards, using the information to help health officials interested in scaling up innovations identify who is likely to influence whom and with what message.
“A lot of people think that networks just make pretty pictures and nice visualizations,” Contractor said. “We want to prove that networks can do something very actionable and solve major world problems.”
Many Americans are vastly unaware of the damage Gates funded programs have done in India by “solving major world problems.”
But the real story is that while polio has statistically disappeared from India, there has been a huge spike in cases of non-polio acute flaccid paralysis (NPAFP)– the very types of crippling problems it was hoped would disappear with polio but which have instead flourished from a new cause.
There were 47,500 cases of non-polio paralysis reported in 2011, the same year India was declared “polio-free,” according to Dr. Vashisht and Dr. Puliyel. Further, the available data shows that the incidents tracked back to areas were doses of the polio vaccine were frequently administered. The national rate of NPAFP in India is 25-35 times the international average.
That program was criticized by Indian doctors unbeknownst to the rest of the world. Thanks to surveillance methods backed by Gates and other NGOs, we’ll hear from them less and less. This initiative is another way to ferret them out, seek new believers and sweep out the old culture. Such energy and funds could be better spent in increasing health by other means. While the press release would seem innocuous to the average reader, the underlying aggression will be felt in India where it takes place in the form of dehumanizing social manipulation.
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