Behavior change for newborn survival in resource-poor community settings: bridging the gap between evidence and impact

Semin Perinatol. 2010 Dec;34(6):446-61. doi: 10.1053/j.semperi.2010.09.006.


Despite an established evidence base of simple, affordable, and low-cost interventions to avert neonatal deaths, global progress in reducing neonatal mortality has stagnated in recent years. Under-recognition of the critical role played by behavior change in ensuring adoption and dissemination of innovations is a major reason for this gap between evidence and impact. A general lack of understanding of the mechanisms underlying behavior change at a population level coupled with an under-appreciation of the sociocultural context of newborn care behaviors has underscored ill-informed approaches towards behavior change that have met with limited success. This article draws upon available evidence from prevention-oriented, community-based newborn survival trials to derive insights into the role of behavior change in neonatal mortality reduction. We propose a simple model, the intervention-causation pathway, to explain the pathway through which behavior change interventions may lead to reductions in mortality. Further, we explore the unique nature of newborn care behaviors and their underlying sociocultural context, along with state-of-the-art advances in social, behavioral, and management sciences. These principles form the basis of the behavior change management framework that has successfully guided intervention design and implementation, leading to high impact on neonatal mortality reduction, in Uttar Pradesh, India. We describe how the behavior change management framework can be applied to inform the design of theoretically and empirically sound behavior change interventions with greater precision, predictability and pace towards reduction in neonatal mortality. We finally touch upon key overarching principles that should guide intervention execution for maximal impact.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Behavior Therapy / standards
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India
  • Infant Care / methods*
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy
  • Socioeconomic Factors