Using Positive Opinion Leaders to Successfully Move Global Communities
Towards a Better Tomorrow
From 1999 to 2000 project PRISM, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), was implemented in the country of Guinea by the Management Sciences for Health (MSH). With high HIV/AIDS rates, low life expectancy and high child mortality rates, project PRISM aimed to respond to Guinea’s health needs. Project PRISMS objectives included, “to increase the use of Family planning and maternal health services and decrease the spread of STD’s/HIV/Aids through appropriate prevention practices” (Blake et al 2002).
This project represents an innovative global initiative to contribute to the common goals of assuring the health and well-being for every individual. What makes it so innovative?
The John Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs, acknowledge the important roles religious leaders play as “community gate keepers and sources of information” (JHU/CCP-PRISM).Guinea’s population consists majority of follows the Islamic religion. Recognizing the significance of religious leaders in the country of Guinea, project PRISM essentially supported community gate keepers in guinea in increasing their knowledge on modern methods of Family Planning. This initiative lead to addressing the misconception that Islam forbids forms of modern forms of Family Planning within the communities of Guinea and resulted in increases in positive family planning behaviors.
JHU expresses, “Putting family planning within the context of Islamic religion enabled religious leaders to identify with the concept and helped to enlist their support in the promotion of family planning.”
How much of the interventions today integrate religious positive opinion leaders? If we know that using religious leaders to support the integration of positive health behaviors has proved to be successful in reaching many communities, especially in rural population areas, why do we not see more interventions today that use POL’s such as religious leaders?
Initiatives such as project PRISIM could be so impactful to reach great change needed globally today. Yet it is not a hot tool on the market.
What can we do to make interventions innovative, as well as culturally and religiously competent?
Final results of JSI-implemented USAID/ Focus Region Health Project Disseminated. John
Snow Inc. JSI research and Training Institute, Inc. February 2014. http://www.jsi.com/JSIInternet/PressRoom/newsitem/display.cfm?newsArea=what%27s%5Enew&txtGeoArea=INTL&id=1197&thisSection=PressRoom
Blake, M. and Babalola, S. “Impact of a Male Motivation Campaign on Family Planning
Ideation and Practice in Guinea,” Field Report No. 13. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Communication Programs, April 2002.