How the Radio Saved a Child’s Life

The Expanded Social Marketing Project (ESMPIN), funded by USAID, improved the health of women and children in Nigeria by increasing use of modern family planning methods and child health. To achieve this, a team, including Society for Family Health (SFH) along with the Association for Reproductive and Family Health, BBC Media Action and Population Services International (PSI) worked to: increase access to family planning (FP), reproductive health and child health products; increase use of health products and practice of health behaviors; generate support from all sectors for social marketing as an important part of a total market approach; and improve the viability of local manufacture of key health products.

Mass media is one of the ways the ESMPIN projects disseminate health messages to sensitize people on adopting healthy behaviors. The project used a 60-second advert, 15-minute radio dramas and 15-minute radio magazine programs. These complementary forms of communication helped reinforce health messages and promote behavior change.

“I am a proud beneficiary of an SFH intervention through a radio drama called ‘One Thing at a Time’. My wife and I had almost lost our son to diarrhea, despite several treatments from his doctor including ORS [oral rehydration salts]. Unfortunately, these yielded little result, and my son was gradually ‘drying up’ day by day despite the medical attention. One morning, I took a drive from home and tuned my radio. I heard the radio program sponsored by SFH, and the discussion was on diarrhea prevention and treatment. For the first time, I heard of the complete treatment of diarrhea with ORS and zinc. I quickly spoke to my wife and we purchased ORS and zinc [co-pack kit], which worked like magic. Indeed, that experience was a life-transforming moment, because we learned how to handle diarrhea at our home, which saved my son’s life. We also learned ways to prevent diarrhea. Now, my son and his siblings live diarrhea-free because we tuned in to this SFH drama.”

Jimmy Aninege, a father of three children residing in Cross River state in Nigeria, recounted this story to SFH. As the secretary of his region, he shared this at the ESMPIN town hall meetings he attended as a policy maker. He explained that the program gave him a comprehensive answer to diarrhea management. He is now an advocate for correct diarrhea treatment and uses his office to promote it. ESMPIN radio dramas were designed to appeal to all men and women of reproductive age across major Nigerian languages. They were also designed across all ESMPIN health areas including child spacing, malaria and exclusive breastfeeding.

Did it work?

As the five-year project comes to a close, the program has been exposed to rigorous measurement and evaluation. A one-off analysis of the impact of demand creation on malaria objectives was randomly done for Bauchi State, which charted the Intermittent Preventive Treatment uptake trend and Akwa Ibom State, researching rapid diagnostic test use. The comparison was for six months before a select intervention period and six months into the intervention period. Health facility intermittent preventive treatment uptake results from Bauchi showed an average of 34% increase in Intermittent Preventive Treatment 1 uptake and 61% increase for Intermittent Preventive Treatment 2 uptake. Similarly, rapid diagnostic test use in Akwa Ibom recorded an average increase of 391% within the intervention period.

As for demand creation using interpersonal communications agents, a total of 15,123,844 interpersonal communication contacts were recorded through the entire cycles 1-10 of ESMPIN (at 102% of planned target) along with 598,037 redeemed family planning referrals (similarly at 80% of target).

For more information about the methods, standards, materials and outcomes of ESMPIN, please find the following online resources:

Banner photo: © Population Services International / Banner Photo by: Emily Carter