FEATURE26 April 2022

Emerging from shadows: Insight on tropical disease

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How do you help prevent people from picking up neglected tropical diseases? Sherrelle Parke examines an M&C Saatchi project in three African countries to examine how behaviour might change in future.


When we ask research participants about personal aspects of their lives, and when we expect instant self-examination of their behaviours, how confident can we be about the level of accuracy and the completeness of their responses? This perennial question is what has driven the development of behavioural insight shadowing (BIS), a bespoke and adaptive approach in the qualitative research of behaviour change, within the Ascend West and Central Africa Programme. This aimed to prevent neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) through effective behaviour change communications (BCC).

The objective of the research was to generate in-depth, culturally specific audience insights. In late 2019, M&C Saatchi World Services adapted the typical ethnographic approach to deliver real-time insights about the attitudes and behaviours of those most vulnerable to NTDs: farmers, fishermen, and families with limited water and facilities. The research locations included urban, semi-urban and rural households in NTD-endemic areas of Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mixed-method approach included BIS ...