Alive & Thrive
In partnership with the University of North Carolina, PfD performed a 27-month pilot study in Bauchi State – the Alive & Thriveprogram — aimed at integrating microfinance activities with health initiatives. In Nigeria, fewer than 15% of infants under six months old are exclusively breastfed. By using microfinance meetings as a platform to teach young and expectant mothers the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding – whose benefits greatly increase an infant’s chances of survival – these vital lessons began to catch on. Findings from this study were published in the Journal of Nutrition, describing the benefits of pairing communal programming with educational messaging to produce positive results in new and lactating mothers opting to exclusively breastfeed newborns in their first 6 months of life.
PfD has carried out a microcredit and reproductive health program in four states in Nigeria for the last decade. Building on this experience, from May 2011 through August 2013, PfD and UNC conducted a cluster-randomized controlled trial in Bauchi State to test the effectiveness of a multi-component behavior change strategy to improve breastfeeding practices among microcredit borrowers. The intervention consisted of seven breastfeeding learning sessions held during monthly microcredit meetings, 11 cell phone breastfeeding messages (sent weekly as both text and voice), and songs and dramas about the key messages created by the participants themselves and presented at monthly meetings. The leader of the group was asked to share the weekly behavior change messages with group members, and the group had to create one song or drama per month.
The authors of the study concluded that, over time, the gap between the number of women in the experimental group and the number of women in the control group who were exclusively breastfeeding their babies only widened: as the babies got older, more and more women in the control group switched them on to water and solid foods, while women receiving microcredit and behavior change messages were likely to continue breastfeeding. The researchers concluded that “there were significant differences in exclusive breastfeeding to 3 and 6 months by study arm, and that the difference between the arms widened during this period shows that the intervention was successful at keeping more women in the intervention arm on track when Nigerian women typically introduce other fluids and complementary food to their infants (Flax et al 2014).”