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Mass communication

Mass communication, delivered intensively, is a critical component for reaching scale and impact. High quality, appealing, and memorable TV and radio spots and materials remind mothers and family members, frontline workers, and a wide range of health providers of priority and age-appropriate messages. They can help create new social norms by saturating the environment with images and stories of desirable infant feeding practices. Mass communication campaigns can lend credibility to frontline workers’ messages, making mothers more open to their support, and can help frontline workers remain true to the program’s priority messages.

Alive & Thrive used various types of mass communication, including:

  • Broadcast radio and TV (spots, music videos, dramas, and animated videos for children)
  • Out-of home (billboards, posters, ads on buses,  neighborhood loudspeakers, and TV spots displayed on LCD screens in hospitals, health centers, and supermarkets or shown by mobile vans)
  • Digital (dedicated website with interactive forum, online advertising or placement, and social media)

Distinctive features of Alive & Thrive’s mass communication approach

  • Mother-centered, responsive to the challenges mothers face and what motivates them
  • Data-driven, for decisions about priority behaviors and their determinants, audiences, channels, and placement
  • Prioritized and sharply focused on the behaviors with greatest impact on health
  • Of sufficient intensity and saturation to make campaigns memorable, using purchased placement
  • Created with commercial advertising firms and media partners
  • Emotionally appealing to get noticed and motivate change, showing the behaviors as beneficial, convenient, feasible, and as the “new norms”
  • Frequently monitored to prompt adjustments


  • Understand the situation by conducting formative research and media audits, taking into account variability in health practices, feasible behaviors, key audiences at multiple levels of influence, ethnic differences, languages, and urban/rural media
  • Design for behavior change by focusing on a small number of doable actions and addressing the underlying behavioral determinants that research shows drive behavior
  • Create professional-level materials by engaging commercial advertising firms, developing emotionally appealing content, and pretesting and revising the materials until the intended primary and secondary audiences understand, respond emotionally, and retain the key messages
  • Evaluate and replan by having media agencies track reach and advise on adjustments to the placement of ads to maximize value for money


  • Almost 10 million mothers of children under 2 reached through mass communication. Within three years, Bangladesh reached 6.5 million mothers of children under two years directly through mass communication, Ethiopia reached nearly 1 million, and Viet Nam 2.3 million.
  • Millions more reached who could support mothers’ behaviors. Common, tested messages delivered in a consistent manner reached fathers, grandmothers, health workers, doctors, and decision makers.
  • Mass communication helped change social norms and behaviors. Preliminary results in Viet Nam showed that two-thirds of mothers exposed to the campaign responded that exclusive breastfeeding was the norm compared to less than one-half of those not exposed. During the campaign’s first year,exclusive breastfeeding rose from a pre-campaign rate of 26% to 48%.Mothers who recalled the campaign’s messages were more likely to be giving only breastmilk than those who were not exposed to the campaign.


  • Comprehensive programs result in more behavior change. Almost across the board, the impact on behaviors was highest when a mother was exposed to both mass media and interpersonal communication. In study areas in Viet Nam, the exclusive breastfeeding rate in 2011 was 26% (pre-campaign). In 2013 it increased to 51% in areas exposed to the Alive & Thrive TV spots versus 60% in areas with both the TV spots and IYCF counseling at a social franchise or community-based support group.
  • Mass media, even though expensive, can be a good buy. Mass communication activities represented on average 27% of total program costs, much less than the expenditure for scaling up interpersonal counseling. Mass reach was more easily and economically achieved in countries covered by national broadcast stations and requiring only one or two languages.

Alive & Thrive
Generation 2


Spring 2018


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