IFGH 2012: Public Health Advocacy in Low Income Settings: Views and Experiences on Effective Strategies and Evaluation of Health Advocates in Malawi

January 29, 2012

Authors: Friel E.

Author Affiliations:Oxfam Ireland

Option 1 –Scientific / Empirical Research Findings Presented as – Poster

Aims:

Gain an understanding of effective strategies and ways to evaluate public health (PH) advocacy in low income settings (LIS) by exploring the views and experiences of health advocates in Malawi

Methods:

Semi-structured phone interviews were conducted with a purposeful sample of health advocates representing 12 organizations (including NGOs, UN agencies and research institutions) involved in PH advocacy in Malawi. Questions were open-ended, adapted from an on-line survey conducted with US-based advocacy organizations. Interviews were recorded and responses were analyzed according to emerging themes.

Results:

66% of the organizations interviewed were Malawian and 33% international. Their programmatic area of work included: health, HIV and AIDS, media for populations groups such as people living with HIV, women living with HIV, orphans and vulnerable children, health care workers.

Research, community organizing and mobilizing, media, policy and legislative advocacy, capacity building and networking were cited as effective strategies for successful PH advocacy in Malawi. The influence of the political context was also highlighted.

All participating organizations had evaluated their PH advocacy work. Some of the benefits from the evaluations included: improvement of programme effectiveness, capacity building of staff and partners, getting people’s views on the programme and the organization. Some of the challenges experienced were: lack of resources, tools, frameworks and capacity to evaluate advocacy, preference from donors and decision makers for quantitative indicators, issues with attribution, etc.

Discussion/conclusions/ implications:

The themes emerging from the Malawi research on advocacy strategies and experiences with evaluation are similar to those of US organizations participating in a similar study, even if prioritization differs. This is an indication that despite the level of income, experiences and views are shared across health advocates and therefore lessons, tools and frameworks could be shared among different settings. A framework for evaluating PH advocacy in LIS is proposed.

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