2018 Summit on Social and Behavior Change Communication

Shifting Norms, Changing Behaviors, Amplifying Voices, What Works?

This week I am writing to you from a conference in Bali, Indonesia where experts in health communication gather to discuss what works for shifting norms and amplifying voices. I know, I know! I have such a rough life as I sit here in paradise and bask in the energy of the greatest minds in behavioral health (both nerdy and poetic). I am beyond excited to be here, and I cannot wait to share what I have learned with all of you!


About the conference:

Major conference themes: gender equality, social perceptions of health, climate change, violence and discrimination, child and maternal health, global health, and social and behavioral determinants of sustainable development goals.

What is Social and Behavior Change Communication?

Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) targets complex health issues by understanding perceptions, attitudes, and feelings surrounding health topics commonly held by communities or groups. SBCC seeks to understand the root cause of the negative behavior from a system’s perspective, and then works systematically to reverse the negative perceptions while removing barriers to positive change. SBCC utilizes communication channels like social media, mass media, enterprise entertainment, marketing, and formative research presentations to influence health behaviors.

My role in SBCC

The majority of my professional and academic career has been centered around understand barriers and perceptions of exercise as a risk modifier for disease and how to change behaviors sustainably to reduce disease. I collected population data from hospital systems including provider perceptions and patient self-reported risks behaviors while in Thailand under a grant from United States Agency for International Development managed through Arizona State University’s Global Development Research Scholarship. The experience was such a great in so many ways. I was fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of Robin Martz, Population, Health and Nutrition Officer in USAID Bangkok who encouraged me to submit my abstract for the SBCC Summit. To my great honor, I was chosen (in the top 25% of 1300 submissions) to do a poster presentation, and ASU Global Development Research program supported my admission to the conference! I was able to present on Health Literacy as an indicator and predictor of health risk behavior for diet and exercise. It turns out that people with low health literacy are 12% more likely to score in high-risk categories for poor diet and not enough exercise, putting them at risk for complications in diabetes and heart disease.

This conference got me thinking about communication and how we as providers communicate to patients. Are our skills objectively measurable? Can soft skills like tone and word choice be objectively quantified and then improved? Maybe one day, but right now I think it would be very valuable to start collecting provider and patient perceptions of visits, specifically around communicating health information. If you have had a bad or even really good experience communicating on the topic of health, either as a provider or as a patient, I would love to hear it! Drop by www.allearsonyou.wordpress.com and tell me your story!

Global initiatives surrounding behavior change communication are developing in the global south seemingly faster, and with more steam than in the global north, that is why it is so crucial for international development researchers to adopt a perception of mutual learning when approaching these projects. We often in international work, learn more than we teach, and this summit was a great example of that!

Big thanks to USAID and ASU for making research, development, and innovation a real opportunity for many students like me each year!

Find out more about SBCC at United States Agency for International Development (USAID) And about ASU’s Global Development Research program at https://sustainability.asu.edu/global-development-research/