‘Meri Pyaari Zindagi’: Gaon Connection and WHO’s joint campaign on alcohol abuse

Over 200 health conditions are linked to alcohol use, ranging from liver diseases and cancers, to tuberculosis and severe mental health issues. Gaon Connection collaborates with the World Health Organization for a social campaign against alcohol abuse. Audio stories, video stories and memes make up Meri Pyaari Zindagi, a series that aims to raise awareness on alcoholism.

Gaon Connection
| Updated: Last updated on October 31st, 2021,

Alcohol use is part of many cultural, religious and social practices, and provides perceived pleasure to many users. In 2016, the harmful use of alcohol resulted in some 3 million deaths (5.3% of all deaths) worldwide, notes the World Health Organization (WHO).

Shockingly, mortality resulting from alcohol consumption is higher than that caused by diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and diabetes. 

It is in this context that Gaon Connection, which is India’s biggest rural media platform, recent collaboration with the WHO South-East Asia (WHO SEARO) for a social campaign against alcohol abuse gains significance. 

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Audio stories, video ones and memes make up Meri Pyaari Zindagi, with stories narrated by Neelesh Misra, who is the founder of Gaon Connection. Misra uses the powerful tool of story telling to address the ever present and ever growing threat to physical and mental health in the country brought about, among other things, by alcohol abuse in both the young and the old. 

The aim of this social campaign is to raise awareness on alcoholism.

Talking about the campaign, Misra said people were forgetting that alcohol still causes serious health disorders and causes death and family ruin. 

“Alcohol has been normalised and glamourised in advertising, films and popular arts. Jokes and memes are created about it. This campaign with WHO is an effort to use audio storytelling as an intervention to raise awareness,” he said.

Misra has pioneered the use of audio storytelling for social communication for governments and brands over the past decade, and brought it to the visual medium as well to create a powerful innovation. 

Snapshots from life

Each story in the series Meri Pyaari Zindagi is just seven to eight minutes long, but it vividly captures episodes that unfold every day, in our homes, in the neighbourhood, in our schools, colleges and workplaces.  

The first two of the 15 audio stories written by Anulata Raj Nair, deputy creative head of The Slow Content Pvt Ltd, were recently launched. They are simple, short yet pithy narratives. Misra is the founder of The Slow Content. 

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The first audio story, called Cool Dost, recreates the first impressions of a young girl who has just joined college and accompanies her new friends to a club/bar, where she diffidently orders orange juice.  

The second story is called Mere Hero. In it, a young man shares his excitement with his parents about the new job he is about to take and the glitz and glitter of a big city,  when his father, who uses a wheelchair, makes a startling revelation. 

The video stories of Meri Pyaari Zindagi will include first person testimonies, opinions of doctors and mental health experts, besides accounts of the family members of those addicted to alcohol.

Alcohol consumption set to rise in India

According to the WHO’s Global status report on alcohol and health 2018, total alcohol per capita consumption in the world’s population over 15 years of age rose from 5.5 litres of pure alcohol in 2005 to 6.4 litres in 2010 and was still at the level of 6.4 litres in 2016. 

Whereas in the WHO African Region, the Region of the Americas and the Eastern Mediterranean Region, alcohol per capita consumption remained stable, in the European Region it decreased from 12.3 litres in 2005 to 9.8 litres in 2016. The increase in per capita alcohol consumption is observed in the WHO Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions,where India is one of the countries.  

Alcohol per capita consumption increased in the WHO Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions. These regions include the highly populated countries of China and India, which account for the increases (China: 4.1 litres, 7.1 litres and 7.2 litres in 2005, 2010 and 2016 respectively; India: 2.4 litres, 4.3 litres and 5.7 litres in 2005, 2010 and 2016 respectively). 

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The WHO’s 2018 report goes on to warn that by 2025, total alcohol per capita consumption in persons aged 15 years and older is projected to increase in the Americas, South-East Asia and the Western Pacific. 

The report goes on to note that “the highest increase is expected in the South-East Asia Region, with an increase of 2.2 litres alone in India which represents a large proportion of the total population in this region.” 

Over 200 health conditions are linked to alcohol use, ranging from liver diseases and cancers, to tuberculosis and severe mental health issues. Photo: Pixabay

In 2016, the harmful use of alcohol resulted in some 3 million deaths (5.3 per cent of all deaths) worldwide. Of all deaths attributable to alcohol consumption worldwide in 2016, 28.7 per cent were due to injuries, 21.3 per cent due to digestive diseases, 19 per cent due to cardiovascular diseases, 12.9 per cent due to infectious diseases and 12.6 per cent due to cancers. 

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Further, worldwide, alcohol was responsible for 7.2 per cent of all premature (among persons 69 years of age and younger) mortality in 2016. 

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization, India, in a frightening prediction, said that by 2030, India would have suffered an economic loss of USD 1.03 trillion due to mental health conditions. A lot of mental health issues are linked to alcohol abuse. And, according to the National Mental Health Survey, nearly 150 million Indians need mental health care services but less than 30 million are actually seeking care.