Research by Fe Espino at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine on dengue prevention in the Philippines shows how community trust is vital to the success of behaviour change programs. In 2010, the number of dengue cases in the Philippines rose from 37,101 in 2006 to 118,868. Dengue fever is caused by a virus transmitted by mosquitoes which are born in still water. Due to water shortages, households are forced to store water throughout the year. Espino’s research team engaged the local Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) to introduce a household water container management system to control dengue in 2 communities in Massagna City in metro Manila.
In both village ‘A’ and ‘B’, BHWs were trained to teach households to inspect water containers for immature mosquitoes. An instructional guide was provided along with a container management checklist, collected during monthly visits. The team also provided a video of dengue control techniques. Village A, however, encountered many problems and there was a poor response to the program. In Village B participants reported not only that the visits made residents more aware of dengue control, but they were more inclined to take action. Although behaviour change results have not yet been reported, it appears the difference is that the BHWs in Village B were more active and more trusted by the community. This shows that when engaging change agents, it’s important to understand both how the community feels about them and how they feel about their community.