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.
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.”