In recent years, the vast majority of aid money in the health sector in Africa has been spent on improving the 'supply side': doctors, nurses, drugs, hospitals and so on. All of this is absolutely necessary, but in many countries this investment has been at the expense of something equally important: creating demand for healthy behaviours. However much money is spent on health services, they will only work effectively if people use those services and behave in life-protecting ways.

Creating knowledge and awareness

Many people cannot recognise when their child has a potentially dangerous illness, or do not know what to do about it, so many deaths are due to lack of knowledge rather than lack of healthcare services. If a mother can recognise that her baby has diarrhoea and is able to provide her child with oral rehydration therapy, then the child is far more likely to reach the age of five. Similarly, many people do not take their child to see a medical practitioner when he or she has symptoms of a potentially dangerous illness, such as pneumonia or malaria, simply because they are unaware either of the symptoms or of the severity of the disease. Media campaigns play an important role in providing people with straightforward and easily digestible information about how to prevent and treat major illnesses affecting children and families.


Changing behaviours

However, providing information alone is not enough. For example, most people know that they should wash their hands after defaecation and before meals, but few do so as often as they should. This is even true of developed countries, where access to water and soap is universal. In most developing countries, a majority of the population does not have regular access to sanitation facilities, and people need to be supported to overcome the practical and financial barriers to changing their behaviours. Our campaigns take these barriers into account and develop innovative ways of helping people to overcome them. Read more about our Saturation+ approach to achieving impact, including the use of short, realistic dramas to tell compelling stories that convince people to change their behaviours.

Cultural and social factors can also prevent people from changing their behaviours. For example, a belief that leprosy is caused by a divine curse rather than by bacteria, and the social stigma that is attached to it as a result, prevents people from coming forward for treatment. We tackled this belief head-on in a television campaign in Nepal.

We change behaviours at three levels: in households, in the wider community, and in people’s use of health facilities and services. We target recent and expectant mothers, but also men and members of the wider community. 


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