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Research Design - Epidemics, Digital Media and Communications in Africa

Zika virus

Epidemics, Digital Media and Health Communications in Africa is jointly funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Department for International Development (DFID), involving two case studies. One in Cape Verde with an emphasis on the Zika Virus (ZIKV) and related mosquito-born disease and the second in Mozambique, with a focus on floods, health and climate change.

 

The project examines and evaluates how to deploy and enhance interactive radio as a two-way health communications tool during epidemics and other health emergencies. This collaborative and interdisciplinary project brings together researchers from politics, anthropology, public health, media studies and computational learning, from the United Kingdom, Cape Verde and Mozambique. In partnership with the Cape Verdean National Institute for Public Health (INSP), we work closely with a range of radio broadcasters and other local stakeholders to deliver responsive programs that allow for new interventions.  

Our objectives are:

  1. Use live-deployment of interactive radio programming to assess the technologies and analytical tools for using interactive media forums to gather and analyze social data and generate social insights that can impact policy and interventions during an epidemic or health emergency;
  1. Evaluate the suitability of interactive radio for generating reliable evidence about patterns and changes in collective beliefs and practices, in response to health challenges, of hard to reach social groups in sub-Saharan Africa. Evaluation will assess the following dimensions:

a) The functional reach to crucial at-risk populations (i.e. geographic reach and diversity of population data collection);

b) The validity and reliability of evidence;

c) Scalability and efficacy in deploying the method in crisis contexts.

Research Framework:

Our research is centered around three incisive questions:

  1. How can we make two way communication effective, productive and a generative for responding to health crises?

  2. What methods can best work with sensitivity to distance, language, and cultural barriers to ensure that local voices and challenges are heard?

  3. How can this method be refined to ensure that a response can be rapid, appropriate and effective?

This study leverages the widespread penetration of radio and mobile phone use to reach and gather opinions from diverse African communities. Through contextually tailored interactive local language radio shows, we will disseminate information on causes, consequences and responses to both acute and chronic health challenges. These shows create discussion, with audiences and gather people's beliefs and everyday practices via free SMS channels about the virus and related concerns, such as risk, prevention and transmission. We will track initial beliefs and analyse how ideas are being assimilated and transformed over time by health campaigns, media reports, or awareness of cases in people’s own communities. 

We advance this data by triangulating with qualitative research methods. Researchers seek out those who contribute by SMS, and gather even more nuanced and critical understanding   by semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions. This component of the study is vital, responding to the geographic and demographic variations in opinions and beliefs captured via the disaggregation of the data collected during radio show participation.

 

Funded by

DFID LogoWellcome Trust Logo