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For most people a doctor is probably the first port of call when it comes to information about how to keep in good health. Still, much guidance gets broadcast by the media, and in developing countries the radio remains a major source of public health advice.
But just how much is the impact of the mass media? Do they save lives, and at what cost?
For five years, the West African country of Burkina Faso has been a testing ground for a media campaign designed to answer these elusive questions using the gold standard of scientific study, a cluster-randomised clinical trial. The trial targeted child mortality, treating the media as any other health intervention and measuring lives saved after three years of continuous radio programming with information about behaviours that can prevent disease, such as taking a child to a health centre.
SciDev.Net spoke to the project’s leader, Roy Head, CEO of the social enterprise Development Media International. Head explains the rationale behind the study and offers a preview of the results, due to be published later this year.
The interview was recorded on 23 February at the 2017 ISNTD Festival organised by the International Society of Neglected Tropical Diseases in London, UK.