Radio as a research tool in health crises (Wellcome Trust-DFID)

Can ​an interactive ​radio ​intervention be rapidly deployed ​in ​health ​crises?

We are conducting research into the socio-cultural factors related to the prevention of the vector-borne diseases, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge

with funding from The Wellcome Trust and the UK Department of International Development (DFID).

In parallel, we are evaluating our interactive radio approach – a communication intervention and a data gathering channel – for rapid deployment in epidemics and health crises.

In the wake of the 2014-2015 Ebola crisis in West Africa, the challenges of public health communications and data collection during emergencies have been laid bare. Top-down public health messaging is rarely – if ever – effective on its own at changing practices of at-risk populations. Instead, messaging needs to be inclusive, rooted in community beliefs and attitudes and aligned with everyday lives of the target audiences. Furthermore, public health data must be collected, analysed and used to inform policy.

In this context, there is a crucial need to better understand the role of media-based community projects in improving public health outcomes.

What we're doing

Interactive and local language radio forums can be used to disseminate vital information, collect valuable data, and open two-way channels of communication between citizens at risk and public health specialists.

In partnership with Cambridge’s Centre of Governance and Human Rights (CGHR), we are deploying and concurrently evaluating the value-add of integrating ‘real-time’ data with health communication interventions (and subsequent monitoring of efficacy) for future epidemics in African country contexts. With a focus on evaluation, we are conducting a ‘live’ deployment of an interactive radio, SMS, instant messaging and social media project in Cape Verde and Somalia.

Research Questions


What is the reach, reliability and scalability of a method that uses local language radio and messaging (SMS/Instant Messaging/social media) as a two-way communications platform for rapid citizen-generated data concerning socio-cultural beliefs of at risk populations in the contexts of epidemics and health crises?


What are the method’s particular affordances and limitations compared to conventional methods (i.e. survey data, such as KAP; long-term ethnographic research)?