Developing Nutrition-Specific and Nutrition-Sensitive Social and Behavior Change Communication Strategies

In many countries where SPRING works, we collaborate with governments and other partners to develop nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive social and behavior change communication (SBCC) strategies. These strategies guide interventions and focus SBCC resources for increased impact. To create multi-sectoral SBCC strategies for nutrition, we consult with experts from a wide range of technical fields, including agriculture and livestock, livelihoods, resilience, gender, health, and nutrition. Developing effective interventions begins with a situational analysis and formative research to gain a deeper understanding of priority groups and behaviors in a specific context. With this base of understanding, stakeholders work together to design, implement, and monitor SBCC interventions that promote uptake of improved nutrition-sensitive and nutrition-specific behaviors.

Developed with country partners, the SBCC strategies allow us to identify synergies with other local SBCC activities and to ensure that all SPRING nutrition activities integrate SBCC elements. We revise and expand the strategies as the nutrition landscape in an area changes, incorporating new priority behaviors, target populations, and opportunities for collaboration.

What is Nutrition Social and Behavior Change Communication?
Nutrition social and behavior change communication (SBCC) interventions use interpersonal communication, social and community mobilization, mass media, and advocacy to support individuals, families, communities, institutions and countries to adopt and sustain high impact nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive practices. Effective nutrition SBCC leverages enablers of behaviors and reduces barriers to behaviors, often on multiple systemic levels.

Nutrition-Sensitive and Nutrition-Sensitive Interventions
There are three underlying conditions needed for optimal nutrition:

  • sustainable household food security
  • adequate caregiving resources at the maternal, household, and community levels
  • access to effective health services and healthy environments.

Interventions that address these underlying causes and the broader enabling environment are defined as nutrition-sensitive. The immediate conditions for optimal nutrition are adequate dietary intake and health status. Interventions that address these immediate causes are nutrition-specific. Improvements in both the underlying and immediate causes of malnutrition require sustained changes in behavior by a diverse group of stakeholders. Strategic and targeted at-scale nutrition SBCC interventions play an important role in supporting the individual and social changes that are needed for better nutrition.
The nutrition SBCC design processworks best when it engages—

  • multi-disciplinary teams that comprise nutrition and sectoral technical experts (e.g. water, sanitation, and hygiene [WASH], agriculture, or education)
  • SBCC experts, including communication and media/materials designers
  • local context experts, including public, private, and community stakeholders
  • monitoring and evaluation (M&E) professionals.

The SBCC design process should be iterative and typically includes five steps:

  1. Identify improved practices related to priority nutrition outcomes.
  2. Gather data about priority groups, current practices, and barriers/enablers to improved practices through secondary data review/context assessment and formative research.
  3. Analyzedata on behaviors to—
    1. refine the definition of practices and prioritize which ones to promote
    2. refine priority groups and influencing groups, their needs and priorities
    3. identify the most important barriers and enablers preventing or supporting the priority practices
    4. identify which channels or delivery platforms will reach priority groups effectively with specific methods, media, and materials
  4. Designinterventions based on the behavioral analysis and a resulting theory of change, including—
    1. communication and non-communication activities
    2. implementation, M&E, and documentation and dissemination plans.
  5. Make corrections mid-course and re-design future interventions based on data.

Effective SBCC interventions usually include a complementary mix of SBCC activities and channels, often a combination of—

  • interpersonal communication
  • community mobilization
  • social marketing of technologies or commodities
  • mass-media campaigns
  • improving access to and quality of goods and services
  • creating incentives or disincentives
  • advocacy from local to national levels.

Some activities reach the priority groups who will engage in the behaviors, while others should reach influencing groupswhose support is critical to the completion of the behaviors. If barriers are identified that are social, economic, political, or physical, then behaviors are unlikely to change without non-communication activities to reduce those barriers, regardless of how well the communication activities are designed.