Community engagement and behavior change to enhance malaria control in the Sahel
The Roll Back Malaria Social and Behavior Change Working Group (SBCC WG) hosted its fourth annual meeting in Tanzania from July 11th-13th. Close to 100 participants from over 30 countries gathered this year to discuss trending topics and share presentations on successful malaria focused SBCC programs from the field. Through these meeting the SBCC WG aims to build an evidence base for malaria social and behavior communication activities to ensure the proper use of treatment and prevention.
John Hopkins University promoted the P Process, which is one of the most respected tools used in transforming loosely defined SBCC concepts in to strategic and participatory programs with a measurable impact. The five basic steps of the P Process are: Step 1) Understand the extent of the problem, Step 2) Design your strategy, Step 3) Create and test tools and messages through consultative approaches, Step 4) Mobilize and monitor and Step 5) Evaluate and evolve.
ACCESS-SMC has supported National Malaria Control Programs (NMCPs) in seven Sahelian countries since 2014 to bring a preventative malaria treatment, known as seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC), to children under five years old. The project considered factors associated with social acceptability, including caregivers’ and community members’ perceptions, understanding, knowledge and satisfaction with the SMC intervention, which, overall, resulted in a high acceptance across all countries.
The social acceptability studies conducted by ACCESS-SMC during the project’s life are a good example of the review processes necessary to improve a program’s SBCC strategy. Findings from these studies will help countries evolve their SBCC approaches. ACCESS-SMC gave the following presentations on the third day of the event:
- Exploring community response to SMC: what are the factors associated with social acceptability of SMC in different contexts
- Mitigating gender and cultural barriers for a successful seasonal malaria chemoprevention campaign. Lessons from the ACCESS-SMC project in Nigeria
- Community acceptance of seasonal malaria chemoprevention
Many participants from East and South Africa were unaware of SMC, and had many questions on its acceptability, how the project monitored its safety and why only certain countries were eligible. ACCESS-SMC’s presentations addressed concerns around its safety, showing that severe adverse events were extremely rare, and provided insights on geographical eligibility for SMC linked to rainfall seasonality and, specific to East Africa, SP resistance.
Both the event and the individual presentations were well received, and mark a new phase in the evidence-generating efforts of projects to develop, implement and evaluate effective social and behavior change communication activities.