Understanding why women adopt and sustain home water treatment

November 30, 2011 · 0 comments

Soc Sci Med. 2011 Oct 10.

Understanding why women adopt and sustain home water treatment: Insights from the Malawi antenatal care program.

Wood S, Foster J, Kols A. PATH, 2201 Westlake Avenue, Suite 200, Seattle, WA 98121, United States.

In many settings in Africa, social marketing has proven more successful in generating brand recognition for chlorine water treatment products than in promoting their use. To promote household use of one such product in Malawi, WaterGuard, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Population Services International (PSI) distributed free hygiene kits that included WaterGuard to pregnant women attending antenatal clinics in 2007. Follow-up surveys documented a sustained increase in WaterGuard use three years after the initial intervention.

In 2010, PATH conducted qualitative research on the factors motivating women to adopt, sustain, or discontinue use. To provide context, interviews were also conducted with their friends, relatives, and husbands. Interviews revealed that sustained use of WaterGuard does not necessarily imply consistent use. Most respondents reported switching back and forth between WaterGuard and stock chlorine distributed for free by the government, and many treated water seasonally rather than year-round.

Qualitative findings suggest that two program strategies strongly influenced women’s decisions to adopt, purchase, and continue using WaterGuard. First, positive, ongoing contacts with health care workers, especially during home visits, raised awareness of the need to treat water, encouraged trial use, and supported continuing use. Second, an extended free trial of the product overcame initial cost barriers and allowed women and their families to experience the health benefits of WaterGuard, appreciate its value and relevance to their lives, and get used to its taste. Social support-from like-minded relatives, friends, neighbors, health care workers, husbands, and children-was also a critical factor that promoted consistent, ongoing use of WaterGuard.

The findings confirm the importance of interpersonal communication in prompting adoption of household water
treatment and suggest that consumers assess the perceived value of a product, not simply its cost. Further research is planned to investigate questions raised about patterns of ongoing use.

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