For Immediate Release
WASHINGTON, DC – Global child survival and development partners marked the one-year anniversary of the Child Survival: Call to Action when more than 200 attendees participated in the Behavior Change Evidence Summit here this week. This summit marked a broad commitment to providing science-based tools and information to caregivers, families, communities, and health systems on how to accelerate progress on child survival in the last 1,000 days leading up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) deadline of December 2015.
Based on the discussions and work of the convening scientists, academia, and practitioners at the evidence summit, here is a top-10 list of ways to reduce child mortality using behavior change:
1. Every child – no matter where they live – deserves a 5th birthday.
New vaccines against diarrhea and pneumonia, bed nets for malaria, nutritional supplements for pregnant women, healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, and simple preventive measures like breastfeeding and oral rehydration therapy could save nearly 4.4 million children by the MDG deadline. Life-saving tools must be widely accessed and used, often requiring a sustainable shift in health-related behaviors.
2. We know what interventions work, but how do we ensure they are used?
Most of what needs to be done to bring down the rate of child deaths is known, and life-saving interventions often are available. Demand for these critical interventions, however, frequently lags behind. Other times, factors such as stigma, discrimination or gender dynamics hinder wider access and use. Sustainable change can only occur if demand and supply are aligned and engage all stakeholders – institutions, individuals, communities and societies – around what works.
3. Social and behavior change is a sound investment. It builds a “people infrastructure” and has a multiplier effect.
Positive behavior change at the population level provides country-owned sustainable and renewable benefits that go beyond health and will last long into the future.
4. “If you borrow another man's legs, you have to be willing to go where those take you.” (Senegalese proverb)
Participants recognize that sustainable solutions for global challenges facing child survival, early child development, and well-being require a collective effort and that behavior change interventions are one of the most critical elements of that effort. The audience challenged conventional wisdom to find new ways to work directly with local entrepreneurs, civil society organizations and partner country governments to build country ownership.
5. We commit to building a larger framework, common indicators, and a shared lexicon.
Effective social and behavior change for child health and development encompasses many disciplines and health areas. We can and should commit to building a larger, shared framework with common indicators and terminology to cover the diversity of the field and enable effective monitoring and evaluation, and identify gaps.
6. Challenges and solutions are multi-dimensional
Some behaviors are the intervention itself, such as hand-washing and breastfeeding. Some are one layer deeper, such as the proper use of a bed net. Other interventions require multiple layers of behavior change, such as family planning and birth spacing, which involves education, male involvement, health providers and so on. Understanding and appreciating these complexities is essential, and research methodology must carefully consider multiple determinants of health to inform change at different points in behavior change.
7. Measuring success around behavior change is complex, but possible.
Population-level social and behavior change is a complex subject. Clearly identified processes, methodologies, and a range of scientific methods can be applied to its study just as they are to biomedical interventions.
8. Despite abundant evidence of the impact and effectiveness of social and behavior change programs, it is not widely shared.
As a global health community, we can commit to documenting and evaluating these programs and sharing findings, whether through peer-reviewed journals, conferences, webinars, and other distribution channels. With this evidence summit as the first step, we are forming a community of practice to encourage real time knowledge sharing.
9. Technology and innovations are an integral part of the solution.
The evidence is just beginning to document the power of new technologies, like mobile technology, to bring groups together, model behaviors, reach further, exchange experiences, and foster participation for public health impact. Evidence will help validate new technologies and their continued use in the global health space.
10. We must use evidence to propel us forward.
Taking this evidence to action approach is going to take an expansion of the partnerships that have been at work since last year on a national and international level. Evidence of what works and what doesn’t, and the context and ways in which programs are carried out, need to reach new audiences and child survival champions – entrepreneurs, tribal councils, faith groups, women’s organizations, and a host of non-traditional public health practitioners.
Last updated: April 14, 2014