The aim of our Water, Hygiene and Sanitation projects is to reduce the incidence of water-related diseases, along with the number of related deaths.
Although our ultimate aim is to improve populations’ health, we have observed that talking to communities about health is rarely an effective strategy.
Since health is a very subjective issue, our deliberations are only just beginning. We are seeking to better understand how the populations with whom we work view their own state of health. This work is structured around the notion of “perceived health” used with regard to public health. We take an interest in other sectors of activity and other disciplines in order to combine and make the most of interesting strategies and practices, identifying those which are applicable and adaptable to our sector of activity.
The analysis of different strategies and practices tested in various disciplines – social marketing in public health, livelihood analysis, the Support and Development Program for Water and Sanitation in a Rural Environment (PADEAR) in Benin, the Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST) strategies, Children’s Hygiene and Sanitation Training (CHAST), MED – has enabled us to establish a new approach which we call “Social Perception”.
Working from populations’ perceptions of their health, quality of life and hygiene, we hope to identify what really motivates them, along with the needs they see as essential and for which they would be prepared to modify their practices. This strategy is based on beneficiaries’ motivations and centres of interest, in the hope that levers and anchor points will emerge as a framework for our intervention. Social marketing and participatory tools are at the centre of this strategy. Information concerning hygiene must be adapted to suit the context and the outlook of the target audience, and must be conveyed through appropriate channels of communication; the style of delivery is as important as the message.