Early Evidence: Videos can improve health behaviors

K4Health Highlights

Vanessa Mitchell

CCP | Technical Advisor
A community health worker in Bangladesh shows clients videos

A community health worker in Bangladesh shows clients videos.

Courtesy of Vanessa Mitchell

The Bangladesh Knowledge Management Initiative (BKMI) and its partner the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) are learning many lessons from the eHealth pilot in Bangladesh. Three hundred netbooks have been deployed with an eToolkit of BCC materials for counseling, and eight eLearning video courses designed to improve health and family planning field worker knowledge and skills.

While we have yet to complete our post assessment, we’ve seen how field workers with low literacy and no previous exposure to computers can easily use technology, how their status is elevated in communities from use of the netbooks, and how important health knowledge, communication, and integration skills have improved.

What we have witnessed at the community level is an intention to adopt healthier behaviors among some of the clients of netbook recipient field workers. An important finding has been the preference of the field workers to counsel their clients using the videos in the eToolkit, as well as their own eLearning course videos. The monitoring team has heard time and time again from both field workers and their clients that educational and entertaining videos are in very high demand.

A home health visit in Bangladesh

A home health visit in Bangladesh.

Courtesy of Vanessa Mitchell

Videos are a very powerful communication channel for reaching the community with important health information. In particular, videos that have an authority figure in them, such as a doctor in a lab coat, are very convincing while also providing entertainment. Field workers also appreciate these because it reinforces the messages they are giving during counseling sessions. Our team has heard, for example, that a woman with several children will now opt to use an IUD because the doctor in the video explained the procedure and eased her fear. Other examples include a daughter now encouraging her mother to wash her hands before preparing food, and a new mother understanding how to position her child when breastfeeding.  The entertainment value of some videos draws crowds and has the effect of creating awareness and sparking dialogue. For example, in one village, people were found singing the family planning theme song. In another conservative village, an entertaining video was found to help a young married couple discuss family planning more easily.

Some of the challenges currently being faced are how to keep the netbooks updated with new materials and how to expand the reach of our digital resources (videos in particular) to other communities and facilities outside of our pilot areas. The BKMI team is currently exploring how community and satellite clinics, which are part of the existing MoHFW infrastructure, can be leveraged to reach more people with the important health messages found in the eToolkit and eLearning videos.


I am working in Social Marketing Company and along with other progrsms I am responsible for operating eight mobile-video units and two Floating IEC Centers in Bangladesh. Entereducative dramas on HTSP, RH, MCH Nutrition, TB are projected with big screen in the rural areas of Bangladesh. These methods of disseminating messages are really well accepted by the audiences.

Hello and thanks for your comment! I know from living in Bangladesh that SMC is doing really impressive work.We have also considered projecting on large screens in community clinics and other waiting areas. Right now the videos we have were developed for field workers (to improve their knowledge and skills to counsel), and not a general audience. However, now that we have seen how powerful the videos are and the field workers’ desire to use them as counseling tools, we’re interested to adapt them. It sounds like your videos would also be a great fit in the national HPN eToolkit for Field Workers in Bangladesh.  Would you like to consider submitting them for consideration? This eToolkit will be scaled up on a national level on all available computers in the GOB infrastructure. It’s one way to expand the reach of the videos you’ve developed. Let me know if you're interested or would like to talk more about potential areas of collaboration with our BKMI project. Keep up the great work!Vanessa

I was wondering what the cost of netbooks were in Bangladesh and whether this initiative was sustainable. Thanks

Hello, and thanks for reading my blog post and commenting. The netbooks that we used were actually purchased in Singapore. We were looking for a specific type of computer that was sturdy, but also lightweight, and that had a long battery life (6 hours). We used a Lenovo netbook computer, and they cost under $US 300 a piece. Your question about sustainability is a good one. Too many pilots are not being scaled. Scaling up netbooks for use by all field workers in Bangladesh is not realistic, given the cost of the hardware and also the IT support and monitoring that would be needed. However, in Bangladesh, the government is committed to providing their health workers with tablets starting in July this year. BKMI and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) see an opportunity to scale up the eToolit and the eLearning videos through the existing Government of Bangladesh infrastructure. It's much more cost-effective and also, ensures sustainability as the products are now embedded within the government.Another point about sustainability is that the reason our eHealth pilot was successful, was that we worked with the MOHFW every step of the way, from material vetting to script writing for videos, and included a capacity building component with the goal that they would eventually be able to update the eToolkit on their own. The close realtionship with the MOHFW ensured their sense of ownership of the digital resources we created.Sustainability doesn't happen overnight as you're aware but I think we're definitely headed in that direction.  Please do let me know if you have any other questions. Have you done work in Bangladesh?Thanks again,Vanessa