Research findings from Burkina Faso

Our scientific trial in Burkina Faso is still in full flow.  We continued to test new spots with members of our target audience. Recently we have tested spots on acute respiratory infections, complementary feeding, malaria, and diarrhoea. Most people understand the basic behavioural message and find them entertaining. The most popular spots are those that captivate people’s attention, humour, and emotion. During the lively discussions, the research team is able to identify misunderstandings and story elements that lead audience attention astray from the basic behavioural message. For example, people associate stories involving dreams with sorcery: while the message might be understood, the sorcery element takes front stage of the story. People are fearful of sorcery associations and dislike public attention (via radio) on such topics.

We finalised the analysis of the recent maternal, neonatal and infant research, which will inform our scriptwriters’ creative skills and assist them to adapt stories to Burkina Faso’s rural settings. This research focused on pregnancy and delivery. While most women (and especially those who have already given birth) know that it is important to deliver in a health centre, lack of preparation on the part of the husband or household and agricultural tasks prevent some pregnant women from reaching a health centre in time. Nowadays, health centre deliveries are gradually becoming the norm. Women realise that only at health centres can any risks relating to the delivery and to the newborn baby can be adequately handled. 

We are now beginning a phase of monitoring and feedback research to explore what happens when spots or interactive modules are broadcast on our partner radio stations. Do our spots reach our target audience? What do people remember and/or appreciate in our spots and modules? Do people retain the basic behavioural message? In which ways do the spots or modules stimulate behavioural changes? How can radio broadcasts of spots and modules be improved?

Our initial findings are that women, because of their increased workload, tend to catch the short spots (which are broadcast 10 times per day) whereas men have more leisure time in the evenings and are able to also listen to the two-hour shows that are broadcast every weekday. Overall, our target audience was able to recall multiple behavioural messages from the spots that were broadcast, and not only the most recent ones. Villagers discussed in detail the storylines and messages of exclusive breastfeeding, colostrum, malaria treatment and prevention, identifying pneumonia and taking appropriate action, how to treat simple and severe diarrhoea, antenatal care visits, the importance of handwashing, and so on.

While the basic behavioural message is definitely retained by the audience, the team did find some instances where people report incomplete or incorrect information, for example, only beginning complementary feeding of infants at nine months (not six months). Very few participants expressed dissatisfaction with the radio broadcasts. 

The team also looked into behavioural changes. Repeatedly, people reported taking action in relation to our messages:

  • One young man told us the wife of his brother wanted to give her newborn baby water two days after birth. He explained to both his brother and the wife that one should not give water to a baby until he is six months old.
  • Another woman who sells goods at the market recounted that she saw a woman coming to the market to buy Toupai, unlicensed street antibiotics, for her child which had fever. The market woman said she pursued the woman and advised her not take those street drugs but to take the child to a health centre.
  • Another old man stops his children each time they are sitting down to eat and reminds them of “What do they say on the radio?” and his children then remember to wash their hands.