Vietnam: A Handwashing Behavior Change Journey for the Caretakers’ Program

Summary
Launched by the Ministry of Health in 2006, the Vietnam Handwashing Initiative (HWI) aimed to move audiences towards adopting and maintaining hygienic behaviors in order to decrease the prevalence of diarrheal disease and acute respiratory infections. Initial research on handwashing with soap conducted in areas selected for intervention helped program developers to identify the initiative’s target audience – mothers of children younger than age five. Once the audience was selected, the development team worked to create campaign messaging, which promoted handwashing with soap as a key part of being a “good mother” and helping children to reach developmental milestones. This message was communicated via multiple channels including a traditional children’s counting song, posters, and a television spot that ran during times of the day when mothers were most likely to watch tv. The initiative also promoted handwashing behaviors through in-person activities such as games, hand washing demonstrations, and question and answer sessions. “Motivators” which included village health workers, leaders, and Vietnam Women’s Union members were all trained on how to promote handwashing with soap, conduct household visits, and host group meetings. Several rounds of pretesting were conducted in order to revise HWI communications and curriculum. Discussions with mothers, surveys, and results from testing handwashing stations were used to measure the impact of the initiative.

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Results
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