By Andrew Bishop Mkandawire
In a quest to increase youth, men and women access to comprehensive information and integrated health services are pushing Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights implementing organizations to learn how to use modern and innovative media channels including digital technologies that store and play audio-visual media files on basic and advanced electronic devices.
Such digital mobile technologies under discussion include Secure Digital memory card which comes in different brands, storage capacities, and device utility options.
Family Planning Association of Malaŵi through the WISH2ACTION project funded by FCDO has managed to pioneer the usage of SD cards to promote contraception knowledge and support community mobilization efforts to spark health service-seeking behaviors among youth, women, and men in Lilongwe and Kasungu districts. The community feedback and service delivery results have been outstanding.
The secret of utilizing DS cards as channels of communication depends on three points: High-quality interactive SBCC messages; Reliable and influential distribution channels; and Robust channels of feedback collection aligned to service delivery points.
A high-quality SBCC message aims at promoting specific health service-seeking behaviors from a well-defined and approved SBCC strategy that is aligned to support service delivery interventions. For the WISH2ACTION project, delayed first pregnancy, promoted birth spacing, improved male engagement, reduced stigma, and discrimination, dispelled myths and misconceptions on contraception were the key behaviors and influencing factors that were reflected in well-crafted audio–visual messages to promote knowledge and demand for contraception services.
Family Planning Association of Malaŵi (FPAM) and Development Media International (DMI) used existing structures like FPAM static and mobile clinics, public health facilities, and ministry of health staff including community health workers and volunteers, and Youth Action Movement members under FPAM and youth club members under the district youth officer to distribute the SD cards to the end-user. The same channels were used to collect reports and end-users feedback SD cards playable on basic keypad phones and smartphones have been an easy mobile technology that has brought edutainment to rural masses in Lilongwe and Kasungu. Youth people, women, and men have learned a lot about family planning, supporting and prohibitive social norms towards the promotion of contraception uptake, and the visual appeal, cases, and storylines provided a direct reflective approach to haunt all people who though certain age groups regardless of being in reproductive age needed to access contraception services
Health workers and community volunteers including youth have found it easy to teach family planning in small groups and on one on one as SD card messages to spark even sensitive discussions around family planning. Parents have been drawn closer to their youth as some interactive stories provided a smart rapport to discuss issues of sexuality and family planning. SBCC personnel also found SD cards content impactful as community mobilization efforts also relied on already created awareness and knowledge of contraception from the SD cards shared with end-users.
SD cards also helped FPAM manage to overachieve youth reach with 24% from the target of 15% and managed to push for other WISH2ACTION indicators like reaching poor people and people living with disabilities with FP information and services. The audio-visuals were also designed to help reach people of different disabilities because the characters in the messages were also exhibiting how communities should be alert to accept social inclusion in the provision of FP information and services.
The SD cards do not only have the best stories to tell. They also have some shortfalls. One of the notable shortfalls was malfunction before time. Some brands of SD cards may not shoulder heavy-duty playing time especially if the SD card is directly placed on a card reader which tends to overheat. And some few ones had manufacturing errors too which made them quickly malfunction before a fortnight of usage.
It seems the cost of an SD card and the content loading fees at a wholesale price is not worrisome as compared to the cost of producing the interactive message which is key. DMI and FPAM paid relatively MK3, 500. 00 per SD card purchase and content loading. However, audio narrative and dramatic message and video drama, and video cartoon may differ depending on the length, quality, and depth of the story which may demand different casting settings. For instance, a second count of a professional video cartoon story may cost MK30, 0000. 00.
The FPAM – DMI audio-visual content promoting contraception services among people of reproductive age has not only benefited FPAM through SD card distribution and social media engagement which have increased FPAM visibility among Malaŵians and Non-Malawians, other SRHR/HIV/GBV implementing partners have started to benefit from them as well. Population Services International Malawi through FCDO funded project, Tsogolo Langa has already adopted WHISH2ACTION SBCC training packages, audio-visuals, and some IEC materials to replace the best practices in Chiradzulu, Nkhatabay, Mulanje, Mchinji, Mangochi, Chikwawa, and Salima districts.
The future of SD cards in promoting health information and health service-seeking behaviors is bright as it is being accepted by both urban and deep rural dwellers. However, the technologies have to take different formats to maintain their reliability as the wave and advancements in technology are at a faster speed.
FPAM and DMI distributed 3828 SD Cards in Phase one, 4000 SD Cards in Phase two, 4000 SD Cards in Phase three, and 2500 SD Cards in Phase five beginning 2020 to 2021 end. These SD cards which were loaded with FP audio-visuals reached 214,920 people in Lilongwe and Kasungu districts
Implemented in Malawi together with FPAM, DMI, and Options, the “Women’s Integrated Sexual Health” (WISH) program through IPPF aims at providing integrated and holistic healthcare across Africa and South Asia.WISH2ACTION’s operational model – the WISH Cluster Model – is a comprehensive, integrated approach to ensure equitable access to family planning and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), prioritizing the most underserved women and girls, particularly youth under 20, the very poor, and marginalized populations (including people with disability, people displaced or affected by humanitarian crisis, and people living in hard-to-reach are. The WISH2 Consortium managed by IPPF brings together five internationally recognized leading organizations in their field along with 11 IPPF Member Associations to deliver the WISH program across all 16 countries in Lot 2, delivering 16.921m CYPs, 2.2m additional users.