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Comic Relief and GSK
Sierra Leone

BBC Media Action

Communication for Healthy Behaviour, Achieving Reduced Malaria (CHARM)


The estimated number of malaria cases and deaths in Sierra Leone decreased from 2010–2018. Still, with an estimated 2.4 million cases in 2018, malaria remains a serious public health risk in the country. The entire population is at risk of the disease, but pregnant women and children under five years old are most affected – malaria is the leading cause of death for children under five.

BBC Media Action project aimed to contribute to better malaria control and increased demand for health services in Sierra Leone. This project primarily targeted women of childbearing age, their partners and other influential caregivers (such as grandmothers and aunts). The project broadcast a national radio programme, Tawa Fo Welbodi (Determined For Health), as well as 15 radio & 15 TV public service announcements (PSAs) on radio, TV and social media.

Content covered topics including how malaria spreads, the importance of getting tested for malaria and how to protect yourself by sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net. During the second half of the project, BBC Media Action focused on greater accountability and transparency around malaria service delivery issues. Six town hall debate radio programmes were recorded in front of audiences in different districts of Sierra Leone, each with the help of a local radio station.

From October 2019, these programmes were broadcast within the existing Tawa Fo Welbodi broadcast schedule to increase audience engagement and understanding around malaria service delivery challenges and solutions. BBC Media Action also trained 15 partner radio stations across Sierra Leone to produce monthly local community discussion programmes designed to foster discussion, build relationships, and provide local solutions to improve access to, and the quality of, malaria health services.

An independent evaluation found that the project has been effective in reinforcing positive knowledge, attitudes and behaviour to help prevent, test and treat malaria in Sierra Leone. This is specifically evident around community members’ attitudes towards the importance of sleeping inside a bed net every night, their knowledge of the importance of getting a test for suspected malaria within 24 hours, and the need to take the recommended dose and full course of malaria drugs.

Media block background

Key learnings

Use entertainment to help influence behaviour

The project found that audiences appreciate the use of ‘entertainment’ in the radio and TV shows. This method positively influences the behaviours of people. The shows BBC Media Action helped produce featured mixed voices from communities articulating examples of simple actions that the audience can replicate. This approach was found to be appealing to audiences and encourages community participation and action.

Showcase positive behaviours of peers

Featuring positive behaviours of other people on the radio and TV shows appears to be as an effective way to influence really entrenched behaviours. This is one of the key things learnt from panel discussions with the radio and tv audience. An increased use of ordinary voices as well as influential voices is something BBC Media Action will take into future work.

Community engagement

Community discussion events and town hall debates were shown to be an effective approach for communities and health service providers to take action on service delivery and to hold authorities and communities accountable. These events bridge the gap between health service providers and community people, they also enable communities and service providers to work together to solve health-related problems.

Key statistics

  • + 6% - the difference between the % of people who know to seek a test for suspected malaria within 24 hours of symptom between audiences reached by BBC Media Action and audiences not reached

  • 51% - the % of adult population who recall hearing BBC Media Action radio show

  • 83% - the % of the radio audience that feel ‘very informed’ about malaria

  • 89% - the % of the radio audience that say they learned ‘a lot’ from the programme


View BBC media action Mariama video

BBC media action infographic

View BBC media action malaria video

Download research infographic

Download research briefing

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Comic Relief is the operating name of Charity Projects, a registered charity in England and Wales (326568) and Scotland (SC039730), which is a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales (01806414). Registered address: 1st Floor, 89 Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7TP.