In Thailand, the annual population growth has dropped from more than thirty births for every thousand people in the early 1970s to around twenty-five a thousand.
In Thailand, the annual population growth has dropped from more than thirty births for every thousand people in the early 1970s to around twenty-five a thousand. A telling factor in the drop has been an audacious and imaginative family planning campaign, designed and organised by a thirty-six-year-old former economist, Mr Mechai Viravidya.
SYNOPSIS: The Thai Ministry of Public Health says that response to the campaign in Bangkok, the capital, has been twice as good as expected. In the first six months, throughout the country, an estimated half million people received family planning advice. Mr Viravidya launched his group, called community-Based Family Planning Services (CBFPS) almost four years ago. He opened six supermarkets at main bus terminals, where many people from rural areas could buy contract ???, the Pill, and family planning T-shirts.
One of his shrewder moves was to distribute birth control devices to taxi drivers, who sold them to their passengers, sometimes in lieu of change.
Mr Viravidya recruited students, offering them one hundred and fifty (U.S.) dollars towards a scholarship if they could get fifty men to volunteer for sterilization.
He had to overcome a natural reticence on sexual subjects among rural dwellers, who comprise seventy percent of thailand's population of more than forty-three million.
Farmers joining the programme can lease animals, such as buffalo, for half the usual five-dollar daily rate. The organisation launched its campaign almost four years ago in seventy villages, south-east of Bangkok, and it quickly spread to eight thousand villages throughout Thailand. Most people in the country now refer to a contraceptive as a 'Mechai" - Mr Viravidya's first name. He says he won support through appealing to the Thai's sense of humour.
He has linked to the central theme other health subjects, such as basic health treatment, and parasite control among a people where almost one in two has hookworm. And unusual balloon-inflating contests are a calculated gimmick to attract the attention of children, and teach them that family planning is healthy, positive and useful for their future lives. Along with his television and radio programmes in Bangkok, and links with the government family planning programme, these light-hearted antics have painlessly educated the people.