The Implementation of Social and Behavior Change Communication Intervention to Improve Immunization Demand: A qualitative study in Awabel District, Northwest Ethiopia
Background: Immunization coverage in Ethiopia is low, and dropout rates are high. Social Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) interventions were introduced as a means of combating the ‘demand-side’ immunization barriers. However, Little research exists in terms of the efficacy of the SBCC intervention, in terms of promoting uptake, and improving the immunization demands in Ethiopia.
Aim: To explore the current implementation status, and perceived effectiveness of SBCC intervention, barriers and facilitators with new strategies aimed at effective implementation of the SBCC intervention in Awabel District, Northwest Ethiopia.
Methods: A phenomenological qualitative study was conducted from January 1- October 31, 2020. In-dept interviews were conducted with fifteen key-informants using a piloted semi-structured interview guide. Participants were purposively selected, which comprised of mangers, Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI) focal personnel, Health Extension Workers (HEWs), Women Development Armies (WDAs), mothers and community representatives. Six vaccination sessions were observed. Coding was done to identify patterns. Thematic analysis was performed using Open Code 4. 02.
Results: Interpersonal communication, community conversation, social mobilization and family modeling were used as SBCC approaches. HEWs were the key source of information. Religious leaders were among the major stakeholders that encourage immunization. SBCC was perceived as an effective measure to improve immunization demand. There were multiple barriers for implementation of SBCC interventions including limited resources, lack of awareness, geographic barriers, traditional beliefs, lack of incentives, and limited EPI staff and health facility operating hours. Engagement of fathers and religious leaders, strengthening the WDA, and allocation of more resources were listed as possible strategies to tackle barriers.
Conclusion: The implementation of SBCC interventions is important to improve immunization demand. Despite its effectiveness, there are several multi-level barriers to its successful implementation. Further, greater investments are required to improve infrastructures, staff employment and capacity building. [Ethiop. J. Health Dev. 2021; 35(SI-3):49-55]
Keywords: Immunization, SBCC, Ethiopia