Tagged: behavior change

  • Research improves handwashing programs by uncovering drivers of behavior change

    A version of this post originally appeared on FHI 360’s R&E Search for Evidence blog.

    Evidence on the health and social benefits of handwashing is strong. We know that handwashing can prevent up to 40% of diarrheal diseases, and can lead to fewer school absences and increased economic productivity. However, many people don’t wash their hands at critical times, even when handwashing facilities are available. While research on behavior change has shown examples of approaches that lead to increased rates in handwashing, we’re still seeking to understand why people wash their hands, and how motivation for handwashing can be translated into programs that result in effective behavior change.

    In advance of Global Handwashing Day on October 15, USAID and the Global Handwashing Partnership – an international coalition with a Secretariat hosted by FHI 360 – organized a webinar on drivers for handwashing behavior change. The Partnership’s work focuses on promoting handwashing with soap as key to health and development, with an emphasis on connecting practitioners with research findings to inform their work. Our webinar speakers provided two examples of how research is exploring behavior change from cognitive (how we think about and understand handwashing) and automatic (how we can be unconsciously prompted to wash our hands) standpoints. In this blog post, I’ll summarize how the two examples show different ways of understanding human behavior and discuss how the findings help us understand what drives behavior change for handwashing.

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  • An interconnected approach to improving handwashing behaviors

    Each year on Global Handwashing Day, hundreds of millions of people around the world gather to celebrate the power of handwashing with soap to save lives. This day also provides an opportunity to consider the current status of the hygiene sector and catalyze further action. As we look toward the future of hygiene behavior change, we need to ensure that we are maximizing the broader topic of integrated development and fully considering its relationship to hygiene.

    Integrated development, which can be defined in many different ways, is increasingly being discussed within the international development community, and FHI 360 plays an active role in convening this conversation. I recently had the opportunity, on behalf of the Global Public–Private Partnership for Handwashing (PPPHW), to attend an event hosted by FHI 360 titled Does 1+1=3? Proving the Integration Hypothesis, which brought together expert panelists from academia, government, donors and nongovernmental organizations.

    I took away many key learnings from this event, but the one that stuck with me most is this: If we hope to move the needle on the most entrenched development challenges, we need to consider the benefits that could be offered by combining services or sectors.

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  • Don’t forget about dad: Six strategies for getting fathers more involved in child feeding

    Whether he’s aware of his influence or not, almost every father in every culture influences his family’s choices about how to feed the children. His everyday decisions about how many of the eggs the family’s chickens lay will be sold at market and how many will be kept at home for the family to eat can make the difference between a stunted child and one who reaches his or her full growth potential.

    The Alive & Thrive project reviewed programs from around the world that were designed to engage fathers in child feeding, identifying the strategies that seem to make these programs work. Not surprisingly, the six strategies we identified in the most innovative “dads” programs echo sound principles from behavior change and social marketing. Our review indicated that, especially when program planners apply these six strategies, fathers’ actions can lead to real improvements in nutrition.

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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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