To improve the health and well-being of the Lala people in Central Zambia, Chief Shaibila promotes simple steps to living a good life, such as sleeping under a mosquito net, eating nutritious food, avoiding risky sexual relations and consulting health providers when something is wrong.
“Is it a big ask to enjoy good health? No. We all know life is a precious gift, and we need to take care of it,” Chief Shaibila said in a testimonial video shared on Facebook and WhatsApp groups to motivate others to adopt and promote healthy behavior.
Chief Shaibila was not the only one urging Zambians to complete simple steps to living a healthier life. Similar messages were everywhere during the “Life is Precious, Take Care of It” campaign, including on the radio, at malaria road shows, health centers and community football games.
The Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs-led Breakthrough ACTION project and the Zambia Ministry of Health launched the social and behavior change campaign in support of the Government of the Republic of Zambia’s national vision of turning the country into a nation of healthy people by 2030. Funded by the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative and USAID, the campaign promoted simple steps to living a healthy life by creating an enabling environment for Zambians to adopt and maintain positive health behaviors to avoid malaria, malnutrition and sexually transmitted infections.
The “Life is Precious” campaign took an all-encompassing, multi-method approach to surround communities with support and motivation for living a healthy life. This involved radio broadcasts, in-person community engagement activities, print materials, social media and a network of traditional and religious leaders who—like Chief Shaibila—advocated for simple, easily adoptable, healthy behaviors.
The campaign’s recognizable messages achieved widespread reach. Radio shows on malaria reached more than 4.5 million listeners. Nearly 160 community wellness days, road shows and soccer tournaments brought hundreds of people together to learn about healthy living. In addition, more than 2,000 health promotion officers, journalists, public health lecturers, non-governmental organization staff and community volunteers were trained on speech writing, media handling and management and social and behavior change concepts like human-centered design.
The campaign engaged traditional leaders and district health officials to produce seven malaria radio spots, which aired more than 16,000 times in local languages across four provinces, and trained radio hosts on malaria. It aired phone-in shows and pre-recorded clips featuring traditional leaders and relatable characters to shift perceptions and promote healthy behaviors, such as sleeping under a mosquito net, seeking care for fever and visiting the clinic as soon as you know you are pregnant to receive the first dose of preventive malaria medication.
In its evaluation study, Breakthrough ACTION found that exposure to the many layers of the campaign led to shifts in mindsets about sleeping under a mosquito net as a social norm, as well as changes in malaria-prevention behaviors.
Approximately 65 percent of women who remembered media or face-to-face campaign programs felt that sleeping under a mosquito net was the norm in their community, compared to about half of women who did not remember the campaign. About 74 percent of women who remembered both media and face-to-face programming reported this norm. Fostering positive social norms around a behavior can reinforce one’s practice of it.
The campaign resulted in more people sleeping under mosquito nets. Male survey respondents with a memory of campaign media efforts, such as radio spots, were five percent more likely to report sleeping under a mosquito net the night before the survey than those who could not recall the campaign.
Care-seeking behaviors also improved. Among caretakers who had cared for a child with a fever in the two weeks before the survey, approximately 92 percent who remembered the campaign sought care for their child, compared to about 72 percent with no memory of the campaign. Roughly 41 percent of those who remembered face-to-face programs, 42 percent who remembered media only, and 51 percent who remembered both types sought care for their own needs. Only 36 percent of those with no memory of the campaign sought care for their own needs.
Vincent Kapungwe, a radio station manager in Mansa district, said some residents have called in to talk about their experiences with health care providers who have prescribed malaria medication to patients without testing them first. “Now [patients] know that they have to be tested before they can take the medication,” he said.