Although the Zika virus was first discovered over 50 years ago, its risks during pregnancy have only recently been understood. When Zika transmission surfaced in large urban centers of Brazil in late 2015, an international public health emergency response began. Dozens of organizations and country governments leapt into action to provide awareness and prevention information, with little opportunity to coordinate messaging. During the first year of the USAID Zika response in Latin America and the Caribbean, USAID found that over 30 behaviors were being promoted. This large number of behaviors presented a challenge to the potential effectiveness of social and behavior change (SBC) efforts to prevent Zika at the household and community level.
Such a large number of behaviors, coupled with potentially contradictory messaging, could result in confusion and be counter-productive. Families could be left wondering where to focus their attention and efforts to prevent Zika in the home. It was crucial for partners working in SBC for Zika prevention to promote a harmonized set of behaviors, to “speak with one voice” and increase the chances that these behaviors were adopted correctly. This prompted the need to determine which of the many behaviors being promoted had the largest potential impact to reduce Zika transmission, based on existing evidence, in order to focus prevention efforts around a shorter, common set of the most promising behaviors. In response, USAID and Breakthrough ACTION + RESEARCH led a process to prioritize evidence-based behaviors with the greatest potential for Zika prevention to guide USAID implementing partners. The resulting guidance – The Zika Prevention Behavior Matrix – provided a platform to support in-country coordination, harmonize prevention messages, and create tools to support SBC efforts.
This Trending Topic provides resources and tools to prioritize behaviors for Zika prevention. It also includes a series of tools from other health areas that highlight the prioritization of programmatic strategies and behaviors. Prioritizing behaviors and strategies may differ across health areas; however, we hope these resources and examples can be helpful to those embarking on a prioritization process. Let us know about your own behavior or programmatic prioritization materials by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Banner photo: Volunteers from the Red Cross in El Salvador engage in participatory trainings to strengthen their interpersonal communication skills for Zika prevention during household visits. © 2019 Sean Maloney, Breakthough ACTION