Why we do it

We are currently focusing on improving maternal and child survival in sub-Saharan Africa by creating demand for healthy behaviours through radio and TV campaigns.
 


Background to our strategic focus area

Priority issues

Almost seven million children worldwide die under the age of five every year. In 2011 one in nine children in sub-Saharan Africa died before their fifth birthday. Meanwhile, maternal mortality rates remain stubbornly high in many countries. Many of the health interventions that can reduce maternal and child mortality (such as exclusive breastfeeding, treatment of diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia, and giving birth in a health facility) are highly dependent on the actions of parents and other members of the community. As such, mass media campaigns that can change behaviours can help millions of people to provide or access these interventions, thus saving many thousands of lives. The priority issues that we focus on are therefore maternal and child survival (including nutrition, hygiene and sanitation, family planning and child marriage), although we do also work on a range of health issues including neglected tropical diseases, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and road safety.

Priority countries

We work predominantly (but not exclusively) in sub-Saharan Africa. We have a particular interest in countries where maternal and child mortality are not declining fast enough to meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goals. Many (but not all) of these countries are in West and Central Africa. We have prioritised fundraising for countries with a high burden of disease, low coverage of the health interventions that can reduce maternal and child mortality, few existing health promotion campaigns, and strong media penetration, even in rural areas. In some countries our model predicts that we can reduce child mortality by over 20%, just through mass media campaigns.

Demand creation

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.

Mass media

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. The increasing popularity, availability and affordability of mobile phones offers new opportunities for us to integrate 'top-down' mass media approaches with campaigns that are more personalised and interactive.

 


Films about DMI

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...

 


Find out more or get involved
 

         

Read about our Media Million Lives initiative

Download a PDF summary of DMI

Watch short videos
about our approach

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 email updates

Contact our London office for a chat