Peru: A Handwashing Behavior Change Journey

The Handwashing Initiative (HWI) was created in an effort to increase handwashing with soap among mothers and children in Peru. A formative research study was used to confirm the target audience and behavior for the initiative, in addition to collecting information on the barriers individuals face with respect to practicing proper handwashing behaviors. Based on the barrier and benefit data collected, the initiative’s development team designed outreach strategies including interpersonal communication, mass media, and direct consumer contact. To ensure that the initiative would be implemented successfully in the 24 regions selected by the development team, facilitating agencies and regional coordinators were brought on board to engage with partners, share tools, and train master trainers for the initiative. Radio segments featuring a superhero named Super Jaboncín were used to frame handwashing with soap as a germ fighting superpower and remind listeners of the four critical times to handwash with soap. Frontline workers for the initiative organized group sessions or meetings with mothers at their homes to teach them about proper handwashing behaviors, and demonstrations, games, theater performances, and information kiosks were used to reach wider audiences at community events.  Additionally, a private partner working with the initiative designed a handwashing device made of recycled plastic that was field tested and later distributed and monitored through the initiative as a tool that allowed for convenient access to water and soap at critical times. Multiple rounds of surveys, including baseline and end-line surveys were used to measure the impact of the initiative. In 2010, three years after the second phase of HWI was initiated, 6.1 million population (target pop.) had been reached through the broadcast of radio spots, 230,000 people (target) had been reached through community events, and approximately 217,000 mothers and children had been reached through some 21,400 trained front-line workers.

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