Why we do it

We work to increase child survival rates by changing behaviours through radio and TV campaigns in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Over seven million children worldwide die under the age of five every year. In 2010 one in eight children in sub-Saharan Africa died before their fifth birthday. Child survival is our primary (although not our sole) focus because we are particularly well placed to improve it. This is because many under-five deaths are caused by a lack of basic interventions, such as breastfeeding or adequate treatment of diarrhoea. Mass media campaigns can help millions of people to provide these interventions for their children (often without needing healthcare services).

Rather than simply educating people about how they can improve the health of their children, we design campaigns that actively change behaviours. Increasing knowledge is a crucial first step in the process, but often changing people's behaviour is thwarted by a combination of cultural, social, economic and practical barriers. We work hard to understand what those barriers are and how they can be overcome, so that our campaigns have real (and measurable) impact.

We use radio and television to reach our target audience, rather than print media, social media or community-level approaches (such as street theatre). This focus allows us to reach the largest possible number of people within that target audience at the lowest cost. In some countries, we might work exclusively with radio, while in others televisions are sufficiently widespread to use them as an additional channel (this is particular true of Asia, where some of our previous work has taken place). 

We work predominantly (but not exclusively) in sub-Saharan Africa. This is largely because of the continuing high burden of child mortality in Africa, and because of our ability to reach this population through radio and TV broadcasting. In some countries we can reduce child mortality by as much as 20%, just through mass media campaigns.



This series of short films outlines DMI's approach in using mass media to change behaviours:

Why DMI? (2:52)

DMI's CEO, Roy Head, describes how DMI was created to bring together the very different worlds of media and science, and how it has the potential to save over a million lives.

Changing Behaviours (3:16)

Everything that DMI does is based on changing behaviours. To do this, we combine field research (to understand how people think) with creative techniques (to manipulate their emotions). This film shows that process at work in Burkina Faso.


The Science (3:05)

What is the science that underpins DMI's work? How many lives can we actually save? What is a DALY? Professor Jimmy Whitworth (Wellcome Trust), Dr Richard Horton (The Lancet) and Roy Head (DMI) present the key concepts.


The Science (Part Two) (1:42)

A continuation of the scientific story, this film describes how we are testing our model through a randomised controlled trial in Burkina Faso.


Radio Partners (2:57)

Why do we form such close partnerships with radio stations? Why don't we just pay for airtime? This film, set in Burkina Faso, answers those questions and explores what local radio stations have to gain from the partnership.


The Talent (2:32)

DMI has a unique way of recruiting staff. Rather than selecting people based on education or experience, we invited 600 people with no experience at all to write a script...