Breastfeeding is essential for supporting the recommended growth and development of infants, and its benefits extend well beyond basic nutrition. It increases the likelihood that newborns survive their first five years of life and has been proven to pay dividends – including upticks in national economies.
Despite evidence of the benefits of breastfeeding, in Nigeria, only 25 percent of mothers follow the World Health Organization and UNICEF recommendation to nourish their children with exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Enter Alive & Thrive’s Start Strong, a mass media campaign designed to inspire behavior change and improve health outcomes related to early childhood nutrition.
Over the past year, a multidisciplinary team with representatives from leading global health non-governmental organizations, advertising veterans from New York and Lagos, philanthropic institutions, local Nigerian governments, community stakeholders, and others, banded together to create the concept behind the campaign and bring it to life. Together, the team developed Start Strong, aimed at increasing and improving infant and young child (IYCF) practices.
Campaign materials include a package of radio and TV spots and programs, social media messages, and print materials. The cinematic TV-spots radiate the wonderment of parenthood and seamlessly weave musings about the awe of new life with straight-talk about the importance of breastfeeding in protecting infant health and vitality. Each spot delivers a single message, for example, about the importance of breastfeeding within the first hour after birth.
Start Strong is airing across Kaduna and Lagos States, which host a combined population of about 32 million, and where less than 50% of children under six months of age are exclusively breastfed. Given the vast diversity of Lagos and Kaduna’s populations, spots are tailored to reflect each state’s unique cultural character, in turn increasing the likelihood that campaign messages resonate with the target audience and inspire them to act. The campaign is expected to reach more than two million women in the reproductive age group in the two states.
With plans for national scale-up already underway and set to reach about 100 million of the population in Nigeria, the Start Strong campaign offers a strong example of how creative acumen and public health best practice can be combined to create novel communications and interventions with the potential to save lives and ensure individuals, communities, and nations thrive.
Alive & Thrive is an initiative to save lives, prevent illness, and promote healthy growth and development through improving maternal nutrition, breastfeeding, and complementary feeding practices. It is managed by FHI 360 with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other donors.