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Rapid response to COVID-19 using mobile technology

 

Our most powerful tool to combat COVID-19 is to change behaviours (e.g. handwashing with soap, social distancing).  In Kenya we are remotely empowering mothers in low income communities to become change agents who encourage their communities to practice positive health and hygiene behaviours that combat COVID-19. We are reaching mothers through the mobile phones they already own to build their knowledge, confidence and motivation to take action to combat COVID-19.  This online community of mothers is called U Afya and it applies internationally recognised behaviour change methods in innovative ways to deliver deep, ongoing, customised engagement that delivers real world change in low income communities.

 

“I have learned a lot of things I didn’t know about COVID-19, now I can become a teacher to others who don’t understand.”

 

Overview of our Impact (Mid-July to late September 2020)

Using our tried and tested, evidence-based approaches in innovative ways and context-specific human-centred design we delivered a mobile accessible digital platform that encouraged deep, ongoing, customised engagement to help mums in low income communities make real world changes to improve their well-being.

We rapidly scaled the size of our digital community of mums and used e-learning tools to increase their knowledge without face to face interaction.

  • 1,593 new mums signed up to be full members of the U Afya community – taking the total to over 4,500 mums
  • 549 learners started the Happy Healthy Home e-learning course
  • 80% course completion rate
  • 96% correct responses to interactive knowledge test activities

We mobilised our trusted network of mums as change agents to tackle misinformation in vulnerable communities.

  • 441 mums pledged to act as COVID-19 Ambassadors to raise awareness in their communities about positive behaviours to combat COVID-19
  • 308 of these mums took part in detailed WhatsApp orientation
  • Pledging to be an Ambassador drives deeper personal commitment and engagement with hygiene content: 77% of Ambassador mums completed the Happy Healthy Home course and 48% completed the Handwashing Challenge

We motivated mums to enact real world positive behaviours through fun, interactive and relevant motivational tools.  

  • 3,779 real-world actions reported by mums
  • 2,631 of these actions were repeated – indicating on-going behaviour
  • 276 mums took a handwashing pledge
  • 502 mums took part in the Handwashing Challenge

We empowered mums to remotely support each other on the digital platform and actively engage in dialogue around the messaging and content. 

  •  2,400 comments on our localised COVID-19 content
  • 67 in-depth personal stories shared

 

Background: driving behaviour change among mothers in Nairobi

U Afya is a digital behaviour change platform which motivates mothers and mothers-to-be in the informal settlements of Nairobi to practice positive nutrition, health and hygiene behaviours that improve their well-being. Over the past few years, U Afya has driven demonstrable shifts in knowledge, attitude and practice in relation to key hygiene behaviours, including handwashing with soap and surface hygiene. These measurable changes were achieved through a behaviour change strategy which recognised that a lack of confidence and self-efficacy were the primary barriers to our target mums being able to enact these healthy behaviours. Simply broadcasting more information at them was not the solution – and we instead focused on a range of techniques designed to boost confidence in a localised, relevant way.

 

Rapid response to COVID-19

Adapting existing content, tools and approaches and building new ones

We knew that the U Afya network of mums offered a powerful opportunity to deliver a rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past few months we have leveraged and amplified our existing content and community, with the following aims:

  • Generate awareness on how COVID-19 is spread and how to protect themselves and their families
  • Drive prioritisation of handwashing and other hygiene behaviours, and build a sense of self-efficacy
  • Actively motivate and establish real-world hygiene behaviours

 

In response to COVID-19, we are leveraging U Afya in the following ways:

 

1. Launched new COVID-specific behaviour change content captured in a dedicated site section, to reinforce knowledge and build confidence

 

Through this section, U Afya mums can access bite-size facts directly addressing local myths and misconceptions, practical guidance on how to protect themselves and their families – tailored for mothers, and can download and share simple infographics on the 3 most effective ways of COVID-19 prevention: handwashing with soap, social distancing and wearing a mask. They are also directed to our existing hygiene content, such as the Happy Healthy Home e-learning course on household hygiene.

Rather than passively absorbing content, they actively interact with the community, building confidence and supporting each other. The mums share their experiences in a peer forum, and interact with fun and creative challenges. A favourite amongst the community was an invitation from our Community Manager Liz to join her in sharing their mask selfie:

The content is designed utilising techniques drawn from behaviour change models such as the socio-ecological model, behaviour centred design, the behaviour change wheel and the extended parallel process model for risk communication.

All content and messaging is fully localised into Sheng as appropriate for this audience and context, and is mindful of local feasibility of behaviours such as social distancing, the evolving regulatory environment such as full or partial lockdown, and the realities such as lack of access to running water. As with our tried and tested U Afya approach,
the content is designed to be very
relatable for mothers in low-income communities, aiming to build their confidence and includes content such as tips for kids at home.

 

“It’s worth every moment, very educative indeed. [Ok emoji] And motivating.“

 

 

2. Launched new behaviour change tools and repurposed existing ones, to stimulate and capture real-world behaviour

 

As well as learning, U Afya mums can interact with a range of digital tools and content designed to stimulate and capture real-world behaviour, including pledges, self-reported action tracking and sharing of personal stories. We have also repurposed the flagship U Afya 10 day Handwashing Challenge, which guides users through a set of fun daily challenges to help them establish and maintain handwashing behaviour.

 

“It was a challenge at first but now it is easy and fun washing our hands. My daughter now enjoys the challenge and we wash our hands daily.”

 

 

3. Repurposed the U Afya Ambassador programme to focus on COVID-19 to drive personal commitment and amplify U Afya’s reach within communities.

 

For our superuser U Afya mums, the Ambassador programme offers the opportunity to deepen their own engagement with the content, and to amplify the reach of the messaging to their peers beyond U Afya. 

Those who express an interest in becoming a COVID-19 Ambassador are oriented through live moderated WhatsApp sessions, to help them maximise the benefit of their interaction with the COVID-19 prevention content as well as encourage them to link with other mothers in their communities -, therefore growing the grassroots movements of young mothers protecting themselves, their families and their communities. 

 

“I wouldn’t miss the opportunity of [being an] ambassador.”

 

Impact so far

In the short period between mid-July and late September, we have seen fantastic impact: 

Expanding the community

  • 1,593 new mums signed up to be full members of the U Afya community – taking the total to over 4,500

Active community interaction with priority messages

  • 2,400 comments on our localised COVID-19 content
  • 67 in-depth personal stories shared by mums

Understanding of key concepts

  • 549 mums started the Happy Healthy Home e-learning course
  • 80% course completion rate
  • 96% correct responses to interactive knowledge test activities

Stimulation of real-world behaviour

  • 3,779 real-world actions reported by mums
  • 2,631 of these actions were repeated – indicating on-going behaviour
  • 276 mums took a handwashing pledge
  • 502 mums took part in the Handwashing Challenge

Building local community champions

  • 441 mums pledged to act as COVID-19 Ambassadors
  • 308 of these mums took part in detailed WhatsApp orientation

Driving personal commitment through establishing status and affiliation

  • Our COVID-19 Ambassadors demonstrated extremely high engagement with the hygiene content
  • 77% of Ambassadors went on to complete the Happy Healthy Home course
  • 48% completed the Handwashing Challenge

 

Learning and Insights

Through facilitation of the U Afya community, we have gathered a wide range of insights that are helping to inform our ongoing content strategy. These include:

  • There is a strong resonance with the concept of shared responsibility to care for their families. 
  • Existing U Afya members are highly motivated to support new members to participate.
  • There is a keen willingness to refer other mothers to U Afya
  • Positive peer encouragement increases participation.

 

“I really support you my sister”

 

We have also been able to gather insights about the realities of addressing COVID-19 in the informal settlements in Nairobi. These include identification of the following challenges:

  • Social distancing of children when playing outdoors
  • Shortage of water supply
  • High cost of face masks and sanitisers

 

If you’d like to learn more about Every1Mobile please contact jocelyn@every1mobile.com