Thursday, 6 December 2007

Creative social marketing can stem unintended pregnancies in Africa

In Nigeria, the rise of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases demands a revolutionary approach to social marketing in order to promote positive behaviour among youth. The following story of successful youth social marketing programs in Cameroon, Rwanda, and Madagascar could be applied to Nigeria’s social framework as well. With such a wide range of print, radio, and broadcast journalists pulling together to highlight sensitive and controversial issues regarding reproductive health and safe sex—such as cross-generational sex (sex between older men and younger women)—Nigeria could see a substantial reduction in harmful sexual and reproductive practices.

The social learning theory, which categorizes human behaviour in terms of the dynamic interaction between personal factors (knowledge, expectations, and attitudes), behavioural factors (skills and self-efficacy), and environmental factors (social norms, access to information, products and services, and ability to influence others), has been identified as capable of shaping young people’s perception of safe sexual behaviour.

This is based on a study by Population Services International (PSI), which was conducted across Cameroon, Madagascar, and Rwanda. PSI’s theory is based on the belief that individuals learn not only through their own experiences, but also by observing the actions of others and the consequences of those actions. The program concluded that after two years of media interaction with youth on reproductive issues in Cameroon, Rwanda, and Madagascar, that repeated exposure to multiple communication channels is necessary to change youth’s sexual behaviour.

Population Services International (PSI), a US-based non-profit group, implemented youth-oriented programs to prevent unplanned pregnancies and STDs, including HIV/AIDS, among youth between the ages of 15-24 years.

Past social marketing programs in Africa endeavoured to stem the tide of unintended pregnancies and STDs by using donated products such as condoms, and then selling them—attractively advertised under a brand name—in small shops and outlets to low-income shoppers. This encouraged people with low incomes, particularly youth, to buy condoms without fear of social backlash from shopkeepers or friends.

PSI workers took this conventional approach, but added a new twist—based on PSI’s behaviour change framework, which incorporates elements of the most commonly used behaviour change theories, such as the social learning theory, the health belief model, and the theory of reasoned action, PSI used the media to communicate intensively with youth and encourage them to use condoms or abstain from sex. In Cameroon, PSI launched a multi-media program with peer educators, journalists, comic strip artists, radio personalities, and scriptwriters to develop messages in the media, which highlighted experiences of youth who challenged social norms to protect their health. Television and radio advertisements aired repeatedly for four to six weeks and encouraged positive sexual behaviours, such as young women buying condoms to protect themselves from pregnancies and STDs. Additionally the program employed street vendors to sell monthly youth newspapers, called 100 % Jeune Le Journal, to youth around Cameroon. The newsletter included articles about reproductive health, letters from readers and responses from peer educators, sports, music, comic strips, and tear-out colour posters.

By Amanda Hale

No comments: