While we aim to strengthen health systems and increase access to commodities and services, we also recognise the need to address the equally challenging task of engaging communities in health programmes. This includes promoting positive changes to human behaviour to improve efforts to prevent, manage and control malaria and other communicable diseases. It also involves facilitating community ownership of interventions and creating demand for quality assured health products and services – ensuring effective access and appropriate use.
Our public health communication work is an interactive process of working with stakeholders, individuals and communities to develop culturally appropriate behaviour change communication strategies and materials. The aim is to create an enabling environment for disease prevention, control and elimination using a combination of three main approaches:
Using formative research backed by theoretical models and insights from various disciplines (such as behavioural sciences, psychology, sociology, anthropology, marketing, etc.), we develop activities and methods to address individual and social drivers of health-related behaviours, as well as policy and environmental factors.
Health messages can be communicated through a range of platforms such as radio, television and community dialogues, to increase awareness of a health issue, creating demand for health services and influencing behaviours. Much of our work in public health communication involves a combination of mass media and community-based activities.
In Asia, we have pioneered the use of an approach called ‘positive deviance’ for addressing malaria-related behaviours by encouraging role models within the community to share their tactics for preventing disease, especially malaria and dengue. In Africa, we train community leaders and health workers to host community dialogues on key health issues facing the community – including malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea and neglected tropical disease prevention and treatment.
We also find new methods to engage our audiences on healthy behaviours. This includes deploying mobile video vans and creating social events, as well as providing entertaining yet educational outputs around selected health care issues. We also support local folk groups to develop drama performances with health educational components. Lastly, we provide technical support to national malaria control programmes, especially in Asia, to develop harmonised and culturally appropriate behaviour change communication strategies and materials.