Learning from the community to improve maternal-child health and nutrition: the Positive Deviance/Hearth approach

J Midwifery Womens Health. 2007 Jul-Aug;52(4):376-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jmwh.2007.03.001.


The "traditional" use of the Positive Deviance approach to behavior change involves studying children who thrive despite adversity, identifying uncommon model behaviors among Positive Deviant families, and then designing and implementing an intervention to replicate these behaviors among mothers of malnourished children. This article presents the results of a literature review designed to gather information on the role of the Positive Deviance/Hearth methodology in social and behavior change. Examples of how the methodology has been applied beyond infant and child malnutrition to address other health areas, such as improving pregnancy outcomes, are explored. An analysis of Positive Deviance programming being carried out by Project Concern International in Guatemala and Indonesia is conducted. The role of cultural context in the design and implementation of Positive Deviance/Hearth, as well as the role of Positive Deviance in affecting social and behavior change, require further exploration. The issues related to cultural context and the challenges for monitoring and evaluation of program outcomes are presented.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Welfare*
  • Community Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • Global Health
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Malnutrition / nursing*
  • Malnutrition / prevention & control
  • Maternal Welfare*
  • Midwifery / organization & administration*
  • Nurse's Role
  • Pregnancy