Social and Behavior Change Communication Interventions Delivered Face-to-Face and by a Mobile Phone to Strengthen Vaccination Uptake and Improve Child Health in Rural India: Randomized Pilot Study
Background: In resource-poor settings, lack of awareness and low demand for services constitute important barriers to expanding the coverage of effective interventions. In India, childhood immunization is a priority health strategy with suboptimal uptake.
Objective: To assess study feasibility and key implementation outcomes for the Tika Vaani model, a new approach to educate and empower beneficiaries to improve immunization and child health.
Methods: A cluster-randomized pilot trial with a 1:1 allocation ratio was conducted in rural Uttar Pradesh, India, from January to September 2018. Villages were randomly assigned to either the intervention or control group. In each participating village, surveyors conducted a complete enumeration to identify eligible households and requested participation before randomization.
Interventions were designed through formative research using a social marketing approach and delivered over 3 months using strategies adapted to disadvantaged populations: (1) mobile health (mHealth): entertaining educational audio capsules (edutainment) and voice immunization reminders via mobile phone and (2) face-to-face: community mobilization activities, including 3 small group meetings offered to each participant. The control group received usual services. The main outcomes were prespecified criteria for feasibility of the main study (recruitment, randomization, retention, contamination, and adoption). Secondary endpoints tested equity of coverage and changes in intermediate outcomes. Statistical methods included descriptive statistics to assess feasibility, penalized logistic regression and ordered logistic regression to assess coverage, and generalized estimating equation models to assess changes in intermediate outcomes.
Results: All villages consented to participate. Gaps in administrative data hampered recruitment; 14.0% (79/565) of recorded households were nonresident. Only 1.4% (8/565) of households did not consent. A total of 387 households (184 intervention and 203 control) with children aged 0 to 12 months in 26 villages (13 intervention and 13 control) were included and randomized. The end line survey occurred during the flood season; 17.6% (68/387) of the households were absent. Contamination was less than 1%. Participation in one or more interventions was 94.0% (173/184), 78.3% (144/184) for the face-to-face strategy, and 67.4% (124/184) for the mHealth strategy. Determinants including place of residence, mobile phone access, education, and female empowerment shaped intervention use; factors operated differently for face-to-face and mHealth strategies. For 11 of 13 intermediate outcomes, regression results showed significantly higher basic health knowledge among the intervention group, supporting hypothesized causal mechanisms.
Conclusions: A future trial of a new intervention model is feasible. The interventions could strengthen the delivery of immunization and universal primary health care. Social and behavior change communication via mobile phones proved viable and contributed to standardization and scalability. Face-to-face interactions remain necessary to achieve equity and reach, suggesting the need for ongoing health system strengthening to accompany the introduction of communication technologies.