A radio campaign in Burkina Faso led to a significant rise in sick children getting medical attention and could prove to be one of the most cost-effective ways to save young lives in poor countries.
Scientists say that a radio campaign in rural areas that promoted seeking treatment for three of the biggest killers of children under 5 — malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea — saved about 3,000 lives.
The campaign, which the researchers said used a “saturation” method of intensive radio transmissions over an extended period to promote behavior change in a population, ran in Burkina Faso between 2012 and 2015. It was broadcast on seven stations at a radius of about 50 kilometers, while seven other radio station areas did not broadcast the campaign and acted as controls for comparison.
Routine data from health facilities were analyzed for evidence of changes in treatment-seeking, with data from more than 1.1 million consultations and deliveries evaluated. The results showed a significant increase in life-saving behaviors for the targeted diseases.
Diagnosis rates for malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea rose significantly in all three years of the study, including a 107 percent rise in diarrhea diagnoses in year three and a 56 percent rise in malaria diagnoses in year one. The researchers said there was no change in detection rates for illnesses not covered by the radio campaign, such as coughs and colds.
“Pneumonia, malaria, and diarrhea are three of the biggest killers of children in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Simon Cousens, a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who co-led the work. “This research provides evidence that mass media has an important role to play in persuading parents to seek life-saving treatment for children.”