Social Marketing

  • What is the impact of poverty on health? TEDMED challenges us to think about it.

    It is no secret that those who face poverty are the most vulnerable to disease. Disparities are widespread, especially in health, here in the United States and around the world. We know that the reasons for this are multifaceted and that to tackle the topic of poverty and health requires a multilevel, multidisciplinary conversation, where ideas are shared with the goal of sparking innovation and generating new ways to improve global health.

    The Impact of Poverty on Health is one of twenty challenges our friends at TEDMED are tackling through their Great Challenges program. So many health challenges are complex. They have medical and non-medical causes and affect the well-being of millions of people around the world. These knotty problems are not susceptible to simple cures, magic bullets or one-size-fits-all solutions.

    I had the opportunity to moderate the first TEDMED Google hangout on poverty and health, where leaders from around the world came together online to initiate an open dialog. Questions such as how to integrate the social determinants of health as a “must have” discussion among medical students, and the ways access to education plays a vital role in people’s understanding of health, were discussed. The Google hangout format allowed hundreds to listen via live video and participate by sending their questions and ideas through Twitter and Facebook. It brought people from different backgrounds and perspectives together to discuss health equity, which affects us all in one way or another. Although solving the issue was not the main goal, I think that solutions may already be brewing in the hearts and minds of those who participated.

    You can also participate in this dialog by watching the session below. Add your thoughts on Twitter by using the hashtag #greatchallenges.

    TEDMED Great Challenges is a program sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

  • Radio toolkit cover In the international development community, the dominant technology discussion is currently about mobile phones, applications and services. According to the International Telecommunications Union, there are now 6 billion mobile phone subscriptions globally.1 Most of the subscriber growth is in the developing world, where prices are falling rapidly and expanding connectivity is catalyzing the growth of entire economies.2

    But, with the rapidly expanding availability of mobile phones, it is easy to forget about the potential of older technologies, such as radio. In much of the world, radio remains the most pervasive communicator of information. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, an estimated 80 percent to 90 percent of households have access to a working radio, while only 15 percent have access to the Internet.3,4

    Rather than making radio irrelevant, mobile technologies have made radio potentially more powerful than ever. Individuals in rural communities with access to mobile phones can interact with broadcasters. Farmers in their fields can access experts on radio call-in programs. Radio stations can send listeners recaps of programs via SMS. Interactive voice-response systems allow farmers to listen to programs on demand. Sophisticated surveys of audience feedback and behavior change campaigns can be conducted with new precision and efficacy. The list goes on, and not just for agricultural issues. The benefits of radio also reach into health, education, civil society and other development areas.

    Integrating effective interactive radio into development projects requires careful planning. To help organizations unlock radio’s new potential, FHI 360 has developed Interactive Radio for Agricultural Development Projects: A Toolkit for Practitioners under the Fostering Agriculture Competitiveness Employing Information Communication Technologies (FACET) project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

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  • Presidential campaigning and promoting healthy behaviors: What do they have in common?

    FHI 360’s Alive & Thrive (A&T) project works to improve infant and young child nutrition in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Vietnam by promoting behaviors such as exclusive breastfeeding and improved complementary feeding. Reflecting on President Obama’s inauguration, we found that running a presidential campaign and promoting healthy behaviors might have some things in common.

    Being precise about which behavior you need to promote

    Obama’s door-to-door canvassing effort during the recent presidential campaign was said to have a clear behavioral objective: Make sure that likely Democrat voters go to the polls and vote. Rather than knocking on all doors to persuade undecided voters to support Obama, canvassers contacted people who had already indicated they were pro-Obama.

    In an A&T TV spot in Vietnam, a “talking” baby shares the precise behavior that results in exclusive breastfeeding.

    We use a similar strategy to promote exclusive breastfeeding. In Vietnam, most mothers said they already knew that breastfeeding is the best feeding method. However, it didn’t occur to many mothers that when they give their babies water, those infants do not receive the benefit of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months, as recommended by the World Health Organization. To increase the percentage of mothers practicing exclusive breastfeeding, one of our TV spots focuses on the specific behavior, “don’t give the baby water.”

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  • Vote for FHI 360 for Katerva’s People’s Choice Award

    We are very excited that two projects we love, Sino-implant (II) and C-Change are finalists for the 2012 Katerva Awards. This year Katerva has added a People’s Choice Award, where you can help decide the winner!

    Help us support these programs by voting for Sino-implant (II) or C-Change for Katerva’s People’s Choice Award. Voting is taking place through January 29th at

    Please take a few minutes to learn more about these projects by watching the videos below. Keep an eye out for the winners to be announced on January 30th!

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  • Remarks for Feng Cheng
    Social Good Summit Beijing Forum 2012, September 24,  Tsinghua University

    Hello everyone. It is my honor to have been invited to participate in this summit, and I am very happy to have the opportunity to discuss with all of you the impact of new media on the field of public service. Like everyone else, I’m a great fan of new media technology – over the last several years I’ve been shocked, and of course very excited, to see the impact of new media on the development of public service activities.

    FHI 360 is a nonprofit human development organization. Our staff members work in more than 60 countries around the world in fields including health, nutrition, education, economic development environmental protection and more. We believe that looking at issues that affect people’s lives from multiple perspectives leads to greater and more lasting impact. Our logo clearly expresses our faith in the ability of science to improve lives.

    The creation and dissemination of new media technologies has provided us with broad, open and participatory platforms which have already become an integral part of all of our lives and therefore, an integral part of our approach to human development. New media are changing the way people live, and the way we communicate with them, in ways that we could not have imagined in the past. In China, new media have already become an important tool in HIV prevention and treatment work.

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  • Toolkit Uses Community Conversations to Counter HIV in Malawi

    Awareness of HIV is high in Malawi, studies show. But HIV continues to persist. Clearly, knowledge and messages about HIV and AIDS are not enough to change behaviors, especially where there are high rates of illiteracy. My organization, FAST, which works with FHI 360 on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention in some of the most culturally traditional parts of Malawi, began thinking of creative ways to deepen the dialogue around HIV/AIDS-related issues.

    FHI 360’s Communication for Change (C-Change) project developed a Community Conversation Toolkit to help communities take action against the HIV epidemic. We partnered with C-Change to tailor the toolkit for Malawi. The tools, such as role-play cards and finger puppets for storytelling, were customized in collaboration with community mobilizers with whom we have built trusting relationships over many years.

    What is powerful about the toolkit is that instead of prescribing behavioral changes, it is inspiring an organic dialogue among community leaders on specific drivers that spread HIV and AIDS, including cross-generational sex, gender-based violence and alcohol abuse.

    Local leaders are custodians of culture. Because their personal attitudes toward issues such as gender-based violence are linked to overall community acceptance and understanding, they can help change cultural norms that contribute to the epidemic. The toolkit encourages leaders to create culturally relevant solutions, gives them a sense of ownership and inspires them to become peer educators who promote change beyond the boundaries of their community.

    Communities follow up their conversations with their own action plans. Later, our trained facilitators check in with the communities to learn what worked, what didn’t work, and why. Thus, the toolkit allows us to understand a community’s underlying dynamics from the perspective of its people. In addition, if the facilitator takes the community’s concerns to higher-level officials, and those officials choose not to take these concerns seriously, we can act as mediators and initiate conversations because we already have built-in relationships with district officials.

    Local bicycle taxi operators, called “Shapa Boys,” have become integral to bringing the issue of gender-based violence to the forefront. Using the toolkit helped the Shapa Boys feel empowered to bring together key stakeholders, including police officers, to discuss possible actions on issues that affect their community. In these discussions, no one is arrested or punished, but the sensitive issue of gender-based violence is openly discussed by members of the community.

    In addition, issues that came to light through community conversations were included in our strategic plan. In this way, the plan is responding better to community needs that are voiced by the people, so they own the process.

    To learn more about the design and impact of the Community Conversation Toolkit, watch these videos of Maclean Sosono and C-Change Director Neill McKee (below).