Portfolio Learnings: How the U Afya digital platform is driving behaviour change for Nairobi mothers

Published on: 16/12/2020

U Afya is an online community for young mothers and mothers-to-be in informal settlements in Nairobi. This Portfolio Learnings piece looks back over the past year of the project supported by TRANSFORM.

Designed and implemented by Every1Mobile, the U Afya digital platform uses a holistic and localised approach to build knowledge and establish the confidence and self-efficacy to drive a range of healthy behaviours such as handwashing with soap, hygiene in the home, nutrition and menstrual hygiene.

Using a range of behaviour change methodologies, the platform enables users to connect with peers, share experiences, learn through free online courses and establish good habits with tracking tools.

Packaged for mums as a holistic space to learn how to care well for their family, the U Afya programme is ultimately focused on four priority health and hygiene topics: diet and health, handwashing with soap, hygiene in the home and menstrual health. The programme has been running since 2017, gradually evolving and launching more content and features as the community grew.

Evidence of behaviour change

Over the last year, Every1Mobile ran a longitudinal study with a new cohort of mothers in Nairobi. By the end of the grant period, these U Afya mothers demonstrated higher levels of knowledge about all four core health and hygiene topics, with significant increases in knowledge about specific educational content related to the U Afya’s core themes.

Respondents reported greater confidence in their ability to undertake tasks related to health and hygiene, in having sufficient knowledge about how to maintain good hygiene by handwashing with soap, and being able to maintain a healthy household.

Finally, respondents reported practicing health-influencing behaviours more often, such as making a healthy breakfast, household members washing hands with soap and washing their hands with soap after changing their sanitary protection.

An additional component to the study this year was a collaboration with Heroes for Change (H4C), who facilitated in-person educational discussions about health and hygiene with a sample of the newly recruited U Afya mothers. This was intended to explore whether face-to-face support affected engagement on the platform, or influenced the shifts in knowledge, attitude and practice.

Challenges and learnings

Every1Mobile identified a number of lessons learned related to partnerships, programme strategy and implementation, including: 

  • Trusted key influencers in the community are crucial for growing a digital network. Participating volunteers should be familiar with the areas and communities they are working in, such as schoolteachers, community health workers and church leaders. 
  • Recruitment through word of mouth is possible; U Afya “super users” are particularly active proponents of the platform and service, and a new U Afya Ambassador approach proved to be a successful way to offer an additional engagement tier to highly engaged users, and to amplify the digital messaging through word of mouth to their peers. 
  • Offering users a range of ways to engage with U Afya also amplifies the web platform, including WhatsApp and flyers.

Learn more about Every1Mobile and its projects in Nairobi here, or read more Portfolio Learnings in the News section of the TRANSFORM platform.

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