On September 24, 2019, the USAID-funded, Abt Associates-led SHOPS Plus joined MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, Viacom 18 and India’s National Health Mission to launch a new radio series. Titled MTV Nishedh Live, the series is designed to engage young people and provide them with relevant, accurate information on issues such as reproductive health, peer pressure and LGBTQ stigma (Nishedh means taboo in Hindi).
Data-Driven Communications Solutions
Each 30-minute episode follows a character who is tackling issues such as myths surrounding modern contraceptive use. Four to five dramatic vignettes—interspersed with pop songs—air each episode. Every three episodes, a doctor discusses the protagonist’s issues on air. The issues are determined in part by questions received from the program’s helpline.
Most behavior change campaigns and public health programs focus on older, married couples. However, research conducted by Abt for SHOPS Plus in India shows that young people, including married youth, have many misperceptions about reproductive health and contraception and would benefit from more engaging, “youth friendly” material on sexual and reproductive health in an entertainment-education format. Findings from this research helped inform MTV Nishedh Live to ensure the program would effectively reach the growing population of sexually active youth in India.
“The data tell us that, as public health professionals, we have not focused enough on youth, safe sex and gender equity in relationships,” says Komal Khanna, Abt’s Chief of Party for SHOPS Plus, India. “This is a great example of Abt working in its sweet spot: using data to determine health-related technical assistance and behavior change strategies.”
Another Abt specialty? Partnering with the private sector.
The Private Sector Delivers
MTV Nishedh Live comprises 15 episodes and airs on one of the top FM radio stations in Mumbai, Delhi, Dehradun, Bhubaneshwar, Jamshedpur and Guwahati. The series is part of a broader, integrated media campaign created for SHOPS Plus to increase the knowledge of topics such as consent, safe sex and gender equality. The campaign delivers key messages through mass media, digital media, workplace interventions and interactive events. These messages are linked strategically to reinforce one another and create a “surround sound” effect to encourage healthy behaviors. The involvement of MTV Staying Alive Foundation and its platforms was crucial to reaching this broad audience, and demonstrates what a valuable role the private sector can play in public health initiatives.
“When we discuss collaborating with the private sector we usually think in terms of expanding services and skills already present in the public sector,” says Khanna. “In this case, to reach the audience we wanted, we knew that the private sector—particularly Viacom and MTV Staying Alive Foundation—would be vital to reaching our goal. Their role was additive—and crucial.”