Life-saving radio campaign launches in Burkina Faso

March 6, 2012

Development Media International (DMI) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) are running a cluster randomised controlled trial of an innovative child survival intervention. The project is funded by the UK's leading science foundation, The Wellcome Trust, and the Planet Wheeler Foundation, set up by the founders of the Lonely Planet travel series.

On March 7th, DMI will launch a campaign which will run for 2.5 years and aims to save thousands of lives. The campaign involves the broadcast of health messages using radio spots (60-second adverts) and radio phone-in programmes. By broadcasting health messages that change the behaviours of pregnant women and new mothers, the project aims to reduce the large number of children dying before their fifth birthday in .

"The project is innovative in three ways", says Roy Head, CEO of DMI. "Firstly, we're broadcasting messages on the most important underlying causes of death, not just individual issues. Secondly, we're broadcasting very intensively: ten spots per day, and two hours of phone-in programming every night on every station. Thirdly, we'll be measuring the impact more rigorously than has ever been done before. We're hoping to prove that we can change behaviours on a scale large enough to save a lot of lives."

The first radio spots to be broadcast this month will promote exclusive breastfeeding – a behaviour which reduces the risk of a child dying from diarrhoea or respiratory infections. The spots will be broadcast on seven community radio stations in Burkina Faso which have partnered with DMI to deliver the campaign.

DMI has worked with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to produce a mathematical model, based on the Lancet's Child Survival Series, which calculates the number of lives that can be saved by a comprehensive media campaign. The model predicts that a campaign can reduce childhood mortality by 15-20% per year, by the third year. It also predicts that its cost-effectiveness (at between $2 and $9 per 'disability-adjusted life year' or DALY) is better than any other currently available intervention, including bed nets for malaria and childhood immunisations. If the model's predictions are validated, it will be the cheapest way of saving children's lives that exists.

The study represents the first time that the impact of on lives saved has been either modelled or measured. "We'll be measuring the impact using a robust scientific methodology: a cluster randomised controlled trial. It will be the largest, most rigorous evaluation ever conducted of a mass media intervention and it will be exciting to find out how many lives can be saved using this approach", says Professor Simon Cousens, of the London School of Hygiene & and the lead investigator.

The project relies on close partnerships within Burkina Faso. The evaluation of the intervention is managed in partnership with Centre Muraz, a biomedical research institute in Burkina Faso and the project is being delivered in collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Burkina Faso.

The funding of the project represents a unique combination of interests. The Wellcome Trust – the UK's leading scientific foundation – are funding the evaluation, while the media elements are funded by the Planet Wheeler Foundation, set up by Maureen and Tony Wheeler, the founders of the Lonely Planet travel series.

Dr Jimmy Whitworth, Head of International Activities at the Wellcome Trust, says: "This exciting study aims to answer the question 'Do Mass Media Campaigns Save Lives?'. This is a fundamental question for public health today, when television and radio are reaching more people around the world than ever before. While mass media campaigns are increasingly being used, they have never before been rigorously evaluated. The results of this study could dramatically change the way we approach mass communication for health in the future."

Tony Wheeler adds: "What interests us are the implications of this trial. If it shows that this is the cheapest way of saving lives ever devised, it could help to save millions of lives in the long term".

Explore further: Major malaria study leads WHO to revise treatment guidelines

Related Stories

Major malaria study leads WHO to revise treatment guidelines

April 27, 2011
The results of the largest ever clinical trial among patients hospitalised with severe malaria - the Wellcome Trust-funded AQUAMAT study - have led the World Health Organisation (WHO) to revise its guidelines for the treatment ...

Malaria vaccine shows promise: study

September 14, 2011
An experimental malaria vaccine tested on children in Burkina Faso has shown "a high level of efficacy" in protecting against the disease, a study published in the United States said Wednesday.

Recommended for you

Sunrise and sunset guide daily activities of city-dwellers

November 21, 2017
Despite artificial lightning and social conventions, the dynamics of daylight still influence the daily activities of people living in modern, urban environments, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

Older men need more protein to maintain muscles

November 21, 2017
The amount of protein recommended by international guidelines is not sufficient to maintain muscle size and strength in older men, according to a new study.

Exercising and eating well are greater contributors to health than standing at work

November 21, 2017
By now you've probably heard the edict from the health community: Sitting is the new smoking. Perhaps you've converted to a standing desk, or maybe you have a reminder on your phone to get up once an hour and walk around ...

Motorcycle crashes cause five times as many deaths as car accidents, six times the health costs

November 20, 2017
Motorcycle accidents are costly in terms of lives and health care costs. Compared with car accidents, motorcycle accidents cause 3 times the injuries, 6 times the medical costs and 5 times the deaths, found new research in ...

Dog ownership linked to lower mortality

November 17, 2017
A team of Swedish scientists have used national registries of more than 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 to study the association between dog ownership and cardiovascular health. Their study shows that dog owners had a lower ...

New shoe makes running 4 percent easier, 2-hour marathon possible, study shows

November 17, 2017
Eleven days after Boulder-born Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon in new state-of-the-art racing flats known as "4%s," University of Colorado Boulder researchers have published the study that inspired the shoes' ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.