Senegal: A Handwashing Behavior Change Journey

With assistance from the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), the Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap (PPPHW) was created in Senegal in 2003. Based on an initial study, it was determined that handwashing rates with soap were low, leading to the program’s objective of promoting this behavior. Phase one of the program focused on raising awareness around the important role handwashing with soap plays in disease prevention. After phase one had been implemented, the program team conducted another study to evaluate the audience’s knowledge and understanding of this message. Research indicated that knowledge around the importance of handwashing had been well established in phase one, leading the program team to conduct a literature review on the sustainability of the target behavior. From there it was decided that the second phase of the program should focus on habit formation, fortifying and supporting intentions to wash hands with soap. As part of this effort, the program developed communications around improving the availability of soap and water in the household when and where needed and highlighting the importance of handwashing at four critical times during the day. Communications were designed to be warm, engaging, and positive, taking the form of billboards, television, and radio spots. In-person interventions through community events and home visits allowed for behavior change coaching to occur in real-life settings and for program team members to secure commitments from mothers to get their family to wash their hands with soap. Testimonials from women and government authorities were also collected and used throughout the program to support emerging social norms. Media monitoring, field supervision, surveys, and meetings with implementation agencies were used to track both the quantity of program activities and the quality of the intervention.

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