APRIL 09, 2012
Behavior Change Communication (BCC) is a systematic approach that draws on social science, adult learning theory, and marketing to encourage adoption of sustained behaviors that can be used to prevent or mitigate disease. Anti-tobacco posters that aim to discourage women from smoking are an example of BCC. To improve BCC efforts in Armenia, the USAID HS-STAR project organized two-day training on BCC for Ministry of Health (MOH) public education officials on March 31-April 1, 2012 in Tsakhkadzor, Armenia. Representatives from the MOH Public Relations and Public Health Education departments, the State Hygienic Anti-Epidemiological Inspectorate (SHAI) regional centers, and SHAI regional center public health departments participated in the course. The aim of this introductory training course was to provide participants with sufficient knowledge about BCC approaches and tools to manage the implementation of public education strategies and activities.
Gael O’Sullivan, the Senior Technical Advisor for BCC from Abt Associates’ headquarters, led the training with support from HS-STAR’s Civil Society Engagement team. During the two-day course, Mrs. O’Sullivan introduced the participants to BCC theories, provided an overview of the main principles of BCC, and explained the key steps for proper design and implementation of a BCC strategy. Mrs. O’Sullivan presented the information through a combination of lecture, case studies, group discussion, and role play. Thanks to the interactive nature of the training, the participants had many opportunities to ask questions and propose recommendations for applying BCC approaches and activities to the Armenian context.
Many of the participants found the training to be very relevant for their work. Armine Andryan, MOH SHAI Shirak regional center public education department head, explained how she and her colleagues would change their approach to public education as a result of the training: “Before, we used to implement all our activities without any coherent methodology. We didn’t identify our audience, our goal, or our action plan, and we didn’t evaluate our results. Now that we are acquainted with the methodology, we know how to start the process, how to plan it, how to study the characteristics of our audiences, and how to influence them through correctly designed messages.” Similarly, Karine Gevorgyan, MOH SHAI Aragatsotn regional center epidemiologist, commented on how the training would affect her work: “Deployment of the presented methods will enable us to conduct more systematized campaigns and, most importantly, to evaluate their results.”
The HS-STAR project urged the trained specialists to apply the knowledge they obtained at the training by developing public education projects for their marzes and involving local NGOs, which can play an important role both in finding financial resources for projects and in implementing planned campaigns. The participants stressed that these kinds of trainings should be continuous. The HS-STAR project will continue to provide comprehensive methodological support to MOH entities involved in public education methodology, resource allocation, project and campaign implementation, and strategy development.