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TRADITIONAL COMMUNICATION AND PROMOTION OF GOOD HEALTH HABITS

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background to the Study

            In distant past, the people that lived as families and clans in villages and towns communicated among themselves with different communication media. From the Stone Age up to the present computer generation, communication has been a tool with which to interact and sustain individuals and societies in general.

            Communication is the sharing or exchange of ideas, information, knowledge, attitude or feeling among two or more persons through certain signs and symbols with or without the purpose of affecting or changing the receiver either positively or negatively. Communication is central and critical to all human activities such as rural and national development as well as promoting good health habits. No community ever survived without communication.

In recent years, health professionals have developed a growing appreciation of the critical role that communication plays in healthcare. The effective communication of information on medical conditions and healthy lifestyles has played an important part in the improvement of the health status of people in the society. Communication thus plays an integral role in the delivery of healthcare and the promotion of health habits. Communication is used in creating public awareness, encouraging healthy behaviours, changing attitudes and motivating individuals to adopt recommended behaviours. This shows that communication and health are closely related and this dialectical relationship between communication and health has given rise to a specialized field of communication known as health communication.

            Health communication, according to Ratzan (1194), cited by Batta and Wilson (2013), is the act and technique of informing, influencing and motivating individuals, institutions and the public on important health issues. It encompasses the study and the use of communication strategies to inform and influence individual’s and community’s knowledge, attitude, practices and decisions with regard to health. Health is not just about the absence of diseases or infirmities, but also the same condition of man, physically, mentally and socially. Without good health, not much is possible. Politics, education, agriculture, trade and commerce; all depend on an optimal enjoyment of good health (Batta, 2013).

Health promotion is in the province of public communication, which confers a responsibility on individuals toward their fellow citizens. It serves the primary purpose of softening the ground for effective take-off of individual and national development. Thus when people are adequately informed about what it means to be in good health, and how they can be in good health, there is need to further persuade them to take practical steps toward achieving this in order to live a better life. The notion of promotion therefore operates on the premise that those living at the periphery where poverty, hunger and diseases are more pronounced, need to be educated, sensitized and be motivated continually to practise and participate in programmes and projects that will help them to be aware of their actions and activities towards the achievement of good health.

Health promotion is a communication action. Hence, the message code needs to be properly conceived and delivered in order to bring about the desired attitude and behavioural change of human, community, state and the nation at large. The people in Uruan, like those in other communities in Akwa Ibom State, are people afflicted by the vicious cycle of poverty, ignorance and illiteracy. The dominant means of communication in Uruan are those of traditional communication.

Hence the traditional media are communication channels which reflect a people’s culture. They were not introduced to the people like the mass media, but are part of the people (Nwabuleze, 2007; Nwodu and Nwanmuo, 2006). Traditional media which have been identified as folk media or oramedia (Ogboajah, 1985) include the town crier, church, village square, market place, chief in council, dance, music, native language, proverbs, folklores etc. Traditional media make it possible for message to be packaged and transferred in locally popular artistic forms which make it possible for the rural people to understand and assimilate.

Like the mass media, these traditional media also perform some normative functions in the society. Some of these functions include the education of the citizenry as well as the mobilization towards good health habits. It is in the light of the above that this study seeks to ascertain the extent that the traditional media in Uruan have contributed to the promotion of good health habit among the people of Uruan.

1.1.1    Profile of Uruan

According to Uruan historians like Dominus Essien of Uniuyo and Edet Akpan Udo of whom are Ibibios, Uruan people are believed to have migrated in different waves from East central and South Africa to Uruan Akpeh in the area now called Idombi in the Rio Del Ray near South Western Cameroun and  Cross River border  where they settled for centuries.

Due to the first Batanga war which caused social and economic disorder in the region, Uruan people migrated to area in the Cross River  Basin called Akani Obio Uruan in about 8th century A.D. The river near the settlement was named ‘Akwa Akpa Uruan which means (Mighty River of Uruan). It is believed that in the 13th century, a kindred of Uruan people, another Iboku group also migrated through a different route to join their kindred at Akani Obio Uruan and Akpa Mfri Ukim. Due to geographical problems, such as frequent flooding, Uruan people migrated again further to the mainland and occupied South Eastern part of Nigeria which is today known as Uruan local Government Area.

Uruan Local Government Area was created in 1988 from uyo Local Government Area. It covers an approximate land mass of 449km2. Its population according to 2006 census is 118,300. It is bounded on the North by Itam, Oku Iboku and Akamkpa; on the South by Okobo and Oron Local Government Area; on the West by Cross River and on the West by Uyo and Ekpe Atai Local Government Areas. It is divided into three senatorial districts which are; Uruan Central District, Southern Uruan District and Northern Uruan District and altogether it has 52 villages and its headquarter is in Idu.

1.1.1a  Political and Cultural Division In Uruan

The political organizations of Uruan are based on social organizations and consist of six administrative divisions which are;

-          Idip Ete which is the first foundation of political unit in Uruan

-          The Ufok consists of the collection of families which traced their origin to one father.

-          Ekpuk is a collection of Ufok which also traced their origin to one father

-          Obio or Idung is made up of the lineages which varied in number from village to village and also have the overall authority which is the  Obong Obio

-          Oduk(the village group or sub-clan)

-          Ikpa Isong: This denotes a clan which symbolizes a group of villages that traced their descent to one ancestor. The head of the clan is called Obong Ikpaisong

1.1.1b  Traditional Leadership in Uruan (Nsommship)

            Uruan founding fathers had an institution of Edidemship. The head of the institution was addressed by the people as Edidem Atakpor and he was believed to be a symbol of unity for Uruan people and was regarded as the living personality of the Uruan ancestors. The office of Edidem was hereditary through the male descendants of the Edidem. Due to some internal and external factors, the institution was modified and the office instead of being hereditary was modified to be rotatory among members of the Ofri Essien Uruan Council which was the highest traditional body in Urruan land.

1.1.1c  Nsommshipe

In colonial Uruan, a new traditional title known as Nsomm was introduced and was more frequently used instead of Edidem Atakpor. The Nsommship title was adopted when Obong Nyong Essien ascended the highest traditional stool in Uruan and as such, he was referred to as Edidem Atakpor Nyong Essien, the Nsomm 1 of Uruan. When Nyong Essien the Nsomm of Uruan passed on, Obong James Udoo Affia was selected as paramount traditional rural for Uruan and he was referred to as the Nsomm11 of Uruan.

1.1.1d  Qualification for Selection of Nsomm

Before anybody is selected as the Nsomm title holder, he must be able to trace his ancestry back to the royal stock in Uruan. He must to be a person of good moral conduct and should be free from corruption, he must also be an individual who could hold his people together

1.1.1.e Occupation

The main occupation of Uruan people is fishing, individuals can join and own fishing materials such as net, hook and or canoe. Uruan fisher men do their fishing both in the local and open seas in Cameroun areas, the fish caught are for commercial use and for consumption. They also engage in both small and large scale farming. The cash crops include; cassava, palm tree, rubber, kolanut etc.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

            Traditional media and modern channels of communication operate independently and also complement one another in the communication network that exists in rural society. Nevertheless, it is clear that the presence of modern media in all sections of the society both rural and urban has not diminished the role of traditional channel of communication. Rather they are increasingly used together to promote good health habits. These traditional media are not merely a form of art expression, but are a way of expressing knowledge in manner which is acceptable and functional.

            In a typical rural area such as Uruan Local Government Area, there seems to be more reliance by the people on the traditional media of communication than the mass media in terms of information, education and mobilization. Knowing the importance the people place on the traditional media in the promotion of good health habits, one wonders the extent that the traditional media of communication have helped in the promotion of good health habits among Uruan people. The question is, to what extent does the traditional communication assisted in the promotion of good health habits in Uruan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.

1.3       Objectives of the Study

            The objectives of the study were to:

1.                  Identify the traditional media used by the people ofUruan;

2.                  ascertain the extent that the traditional media are used for the promotion of good health habits in Uruan;

3.                  determine the effectiveness of the traditional media in the promotion of good health habits in Uruan;

4.                  ascertain the hindrances to effective utilization of the traditional media for the promotion of good health habits in Uruan.

5.                  find out the perception of the people of Uruan on the use of the traditional media to promote good health habits.

1.4       Research Question

            The study sought answers to the following questions.

1.      What are the traditional media used in Uruan?

2.      To what extent are the traditional media used in the promotion of good health habits in Uruan?

3.      How effective are the traditional media in the promotion of good health habits in Uruan?

4.      What are the hindrances to effective utilization of the traditional media in the promotion of good health habits in Uruan?

5.      What are the perceptions of the people of Uruan on the use of the traditional media in the promotion of good health habits in Uruan?

1.5       Significance of the Study

            The findings of the study would assist health worker and other agencies to select the right channels and make adequate budget that will enable health programmes and projects targeted at the rural area to record immeasurable, unquantifiable success. The findings would assist health workers to discover the perception of the rural people about the use of traditional media in communicating with them and the importance people attach to their language and culture and will enable the health workers to make effort to improve in their ways of their usage of traditional media.

The findings of the study could be generalized for other communities in Akwa Ibom State that share the same culture with Uruan. The findings would determine if government can further develop or invest in traditional media for the objective of promotion of good health habits. The findings will add to the existing literature on the subject.

1.6       Delimitation of the Study

            This work is restricted to the study of traditional communication and promotion of good health habits. The study is limited to Uruan Local Government. The channels of communication studied were also limited to the indigenous media of the rural communities in Uruan.

1.7       Limitation of the Study  

            The remarkable problem encountered by the researcher in the course of this study, was the unwillingness of some respondents to fill the questionnaire, as the demanded for some pecuniary rewards. However, this was overcome through perseverance and persistent explanations to them that the work was for academic purposes only.

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