Digital Technology for Rural Communities Boosts Family Planning, Maternal and Child Health Outcomes Across Six States in India

Digital Green’s USAID-funded Project Samvad reaches over 500,000 rural women

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, September 3, 2019
USAID India
+91 11 2419 8000

New Delhi: To observe National Nutrition Week, the non-profit Digital Green organized a 'National Workshop on the Role of Technology in Improving Health, Nutrition, and Family Planning Outcomes,’ in New Delhi today. Key stakeholders from the government, private sector, and NGOs came together to share their experience with Digital Green’s United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Project Samvad. Using how-to video clips, the project is helping to change social behaviors related to family planning, maternal and child health, and nutrition in rural communities. 

The project produces short videos that demonstrate good health and nutrition practices using community members and locally relevant content created by and for the communities. Partnering with state level counterparts of the National Health Mission, the National Nutrition Mission, the Ministry of Women and Child Development, and the National Rural Livelihood Mission, the project taps into existing public and private outreach channels to target women and men of reproductive age. Frontline health workers, who are trained to engage the participants and reinforce the video messages, screen the videos to groups of 15-20 villagers through battery operated projectors. Project Samvad has also collaborated with other partners to complement the video-based approach with radio and interactive voice response system messages.

So far, the project has reached 500,000 rural women directly and 1.9 million family and community members indirectly across six states with particularly vulnerable populations: Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, and Assam. More than half of all viewers have adopted at least one healthy practice, with three to four practices the average. Government partners have also observed increased attendance in Village Health and Nutrition Days and immunization days since the video project began.

Speaking at the event, USAID/India’s Health Office Director, Sangita Patel said: “USAID is proud to partner with the Digital Green Foundation in support of the Samvad project, which is demonstrating how technology platforms, if used appropriately, can accelerate social and behavior change in rural communities. These simple and cost-effective videos are helping communities adopt healthy behaviors and learn from each other.”

Digital Green first piloted this video-enabled approach in agriculture, where it was found to be 10 times more cost-effective and viewers seven times more likely to adopt positive behaviors than traditional approaches. Sharing her insights on why Project Samvad has been successful, Ritika Pandey, Project Director, Digital Green said: “The edge our approach has is that it doesn’t create a new parallel system, rather it layers the existing Government systems with technology solutions, ensuring government buy-in and built in sustainability. The other key to the project’s success is that instead of bringing in experts from very different socioeconomic backgrounds, the videos provide information directly from peers.  Our experience shows that individuals are much more open to accepting information when it comes directly from people they identify with and trust.”

Last updated: September 04, 2019

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