JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. successfully implemented the Together for Health for the U.S. Agency for International Development from 2005 to 2011. For further information on project activites, visit the TfH page on jsi.com.
Pieces of the Puzzle, a Multi-pronged Approach to Behavior Change Communication Activities
September 2010 - Most of us remember as children, putting together a jig-saw puzzle, searching for the right pieces to complete the puzzle's picture. Perhaps, you still enjoy searching for puzzle pieces. Yet instead of finding the yellow puzzle piece to complete a flower's petal, you now search for pieces to one of life's many puzzles. Just as finding that missing piece makes a picture whole and complete, the same principle is true in life. In order to accomplish something that you truly desire, you need to do all that it takes to achieve it, of course, to a reasonable extent. Residents of Vinnytsa oblast, where the Together for Health project has been working for four years, are very much aware of this.
Natalia Karbowska, deputy director of TfH said that "we're not only trying to reach health professionals under the health educational initiative, but we're also working with the general population. We seek to invite public and private partners, youth, and the elderly to help in the implementation of the project. Each region is working to develop its own strategy."
The project was launched in June 2007 in Vinnytsa oblast and currently provides coverage to seven districts in the oblast. The project seeks to improve the reproductive health of the local population. All project components are aimed to reach this final goal by harnessing local capacities and knowledge of the local professionals. This means that health professionals, social workers, trainers, psychologists, NGO representatives, volunteers and the mass media work hand-in-hand to implement activities outlined by the project.
As Natalia Antoniuk, project coordinator in Vinnytsa noted, "We conduct trainings for health providers to improve their counseling skills and to learn more about contraception. In addition, we are working with the youth of reproductive age in a bid to disseminate information on safe behavior and prevention of STIs. We're collaborating with governmental entities to implement activities outlined in the State program "Reproductive Health of the Nation up to 2015."
Volunteer hands out informational materials in the Vinnytsa City park during the World Contraception Day. (Photo: N.Antoniuk)
The program's success would largely depend on the knowledge of the population. Radio, TV, printed and electronic mass media play a vital role in promotion of social advertising, thematic reports and articles, films and talk shows. "At first, we provided trainings to journalists to help them master the art of writing articles on diverse health topics, however we realized that we would be more effective if we were to address them as men and women," said Natalia Karbowska. "Thus, we started training health professionals on FP/RH issues for them to be able to pass this knowledge on to a listener or a viewer further on down the road. We're also trying to get them to participate in various contests held during the FP Week."
In whole, there are 5-6 behavior change communication (BCC) trainings held each month in Vinnytsa oblast, including seminars, communication activities, actions, and sessions. Two groups are usually involved in these activities—and adults. Youth are the primary target audience because they are easy-to-reach through diverse educational establishments.
"Large public events are held on certain holidays. We develop brochures, questionnaires, and booklets to distribute among youth during these events. Sometimes we also get them involved as volunteers," says Natalia Antonuk. "The youth are being very active, searching to expand collaborative efforts and make a personal contribution."
Oblast residents are particularly fond of health fairs"—activities promoting healthy lifestyles for the future. It is well-known that children are our future. In addition to having basic information, youth often take creative approaches to tackle various issues. Organizers use contests, animation sessions, and games to trigger the interest of the population. "Of course, teenagers are our primary and very important audience; however, we are trying to reach the adult populations as well," says Natalia Karbowska. "We're introducing not only medical postgraduate trainings and courses, but pedagogical ones as well. We focus predominantly on men; however, it's not a secret to anyone that family planning issues are often put on women's shoulders."
Collaboration with health and educational facilities, private and public organizations, the mass media, involvement in trainings, seminars, communication activities, and introduction of FP courses into postgraduate education are all key puzzle pieces. Each of these pieces helps to make BCC activities implemented by the Together for Health project in Vinnytsa oblast complete and successful.
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