Mixed Media Channels – is more better?

Two presentations today at the MIM 5th Pan-African Malaria Conference shared experiences with the use of mixed media channels to promote socially marketed malaria interventions as well as vouchers. Both speakers, Christopher Mshana and Hadji Mponda, are associated with the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania.

narchoct03-012-sm.jpgIn both projects a mix of communication channels were employed such as road show/drama, poster, radio, newspaper, health worker talks, cinema, branded vehicle, and free cap/T-shirt.

The social marketing communication project found some important age and gender differences in perceived exposure with younger males more likely to have reporting greater contact with the interventions such as road shows, caps/T-shirts, the branded vehicle and cinemas.  It was surmised that women may not have the time to attend such events.Another challenge was that even among those who were exposed to the communication activities, olnly 60% mentioned a malaria prevention method like nets, and 19% recalled the need to get prompt treatment for children at the health center. Messages on caps/T-shirts seemed to be recalled better than those from other sources.

The project observed an increase in care seeking after the communication efforts, but their inquiry was not designed to directly attribute this to the media interventions. Overall only 35% of 3632 people interviewed reported contact with the program’s media efforts.

Costs of the communication efforts were not reported, but it certainly seems to have been an expensive way to learn which channels reach whom with what messages. One wonders if more targeted media and messages could have been developed through formative research prior to the intervention.

The project that examined mixed communication methods used in promoting the net vouchers interviewed 6260 households. They did look at people’s normal media use behaviors, and found that for media like radio, newspapers and posters there was increase perception of health messaging from these sources with increasing socio-economic status.  The did not observe gender differences.

Only 23% overall had seen messages on the Tanzania Voucher Scheme. The main media source for information was the radio (60% of those who had heard).

Communications is seen as a main component of malaria control interventions.  These two project reports show the need to design such interventions in a way that not only allows attribution to behavior change, but also compares the relative effectiveness and cost of different media channels in achieving desired program ends.

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