The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded a $204 million extension to the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs to continue Breakthrough ACTION, its flagship global social and behavior change project, through July 2025.
What started as a five-year, $300 million project in July 2017, Breakthrough ACTION has now worked in 42 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to forge, test and scale up new and hybrid approaches to social and behavior change. The project uses state-of-the-art, evidence-based tools and collaborations to encourage people to adopt healthy behaviors, from using modern contraceptive methods to sleeping under bed nets to being tested for HIV. Breakthrough ACTION harnesses the power of communication to inspire long-lasting change and incorporates behavioral science approaches such as behavioral economics and human-centered design to improve programs.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Breakthrough ACTION added nearly $34 million in new work in 22 countries to help promote key behaviors – hand-washing, distancing, mask wearing and, most recently, vaccination – designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, which has killed more than 5.2 million people worldwide in less than two years.
Breakthrough ACTION is a partnership led by CCP in collaboration with Save the Children, ThinkPlace, ideas42, Camber Collective, International Center for Research on Women, and Viamo, along with local partners in individual countries.
“The extension is testament to the excellent work of the Breakthrough ACTION team on COVID-19, Zika, Ebola, and other emerging public health issues, in addition to reflecting the need for continued and substantial investments in social and behavior change,” says Susan Krenn, CCP’s longtime executive director. “We’re thrilled that USAID has provided this opportunity for the team to continue this critical work.”
Among the successes of Breakthrough ACTION are reaching over 118 million people monthly with COVID-19 prevention and vaccination messages, setting a shared global agenda for social and behavior change in family planning, fielding Malaria Behavior Surveys to inform national strategies in seven countries, and strengthening risk communication capacity for emergency preparedness and response across more than 15 zoonotic diseases.
“With funding from USAID, Breakthrough ACTION has engaged deeply with governments and local organizations around the world,” says CCP’s Elizabeth Serlemitsos, MPH, MBA, director of Breakthrough ACTION. “Working side-by-side allowed all of us to meet these challenges head on and to prepare for future ones. This significant investment from USAID is an affirmation that social and behavior change is a powerful driver for better health.
“This additional funding has positioned us well to further support these governments and communities with their on-going response to COVID-19, as well as the many other health and social challenges they face.”