"Talking Books" Build a Nutritious Future in Bangladesh [Cross-Post]
Updated: Feb 28
A community volunteer uses an Amplio Talking Book to share nutrition messages. Photo: Akram Ali/CARE
By Swasti Gautum
Amplio is partnering with CARE Bangladesh to support the Joint Action for Nutrition Outcomes (JANO) project. The following article was published by CARE and Agrilinks on February 10, 2023 and is cross-posted here with permission from the author.
“The Talking Book has helped me get very useful information during and after my pregnancy. The songs are enjoyable and it is not boring to listen to,” said Asma Akhter, who is a lactating mother living in Nilphamari Sadar Upazila of Bangladesh.
Asma is one of nearly 62,000 people who have listened to messages on the Amplio Talking Book, an initiative of the Joint Action for Nutrition Outcome (JANO) project
in Bangladesh. For the JANO project, Talking Books hold a library of informational audio content in the form of songs and general messages that are useful for pregnant mothers, lactating mothers, adolescent girls and boys, farmers, and others.
Having access to songs and content that is “not boring” means that more women and other community members like listening to the Talking Book. As per the 2022 annual assessment, the JANO project saw a 2.5% reduction in the number of women affected by anemia. Children are growing taller and healthier as there was a 47.9% increase in dietary diversity among 6-to-23-month-old children and a 13% increase among women of reproductive age. Women are more aware and healthier as 86.6% of women and girls have claimed nutrition-specific health services from community clinics.
Funded by the European Union with co-funding from the Austrian Development Cooperation, JANO aims to improve maternal and child nutrition in Bangladesh. The project works with the Government of Bangladesh and the private sector at the national, regional and local levels to support the effective implementation of the Second National Plan of Action for Nutrition (NPAN2). CARE Bangladesh is one of its technical partners and is leading the implementation of Talking Books, along with Plan International Bangladesh and Eco-Social Development Organization (ESDO).
“Earlier, it was difficult to remember and convey nutrition-related technical messages to the participants. With the Talking Book, it is much easier.”
As a part of JANO’s technological intervention for social and behavioral change communication (SBCC) on different nutrition-sensitive and nutrition-specific practices, the project deployed 208 Talking Books through 208 volunteers in the Rangpur and Nilphamari districts of Bangladesh. Talking Book played a crucial role in hard-to-reach areas where health staff faced challenges in covering SBCC interventions. The Talking Book was not only appreciated by the communities, but also by the volunteers because it reduced their talk time during sessions.
Sharmin Sultana, a community volunteer, shared, “Earlier, it was difficult for us to remember and convey nutrition-related technical messages to the participants. Now with the Talking Book it is much easier. It saves us time, reduces our workloads and we are now able to reach more households with important nutrition information.”
Supporting the delivery of nutrition messages to improve maternal and child health, during COVID-19 and beyond
The Talking Book was especially effective during the COVID-19 pandemic where volunteers could disseminate messages from the Talking Books in small groups of five to ten participants. The Talking Book has icon-based buttons where even a non-literate user can choose the topics that interest them most, replay content as often as they want, and record their own messages and feedback.
“Through the Talking Book, I learned a lot about the nutritious food I need during pregnancy. I would be shy to ask repeated questions to JANO volunteers but with the Talking Book, I can play the key messages as often as I want,” Asma Akhtar shared. Asma started listening to the Talking Book during her pregnancy and still listens to messages to ensure that her three-month-old baby receives enough nutrition. She is also better aware of the services that her nearest health centers provide to her and her newborn. She was made aware of exclusive breastfeeding from the Talking Book and health centers and plans to continue it until her newborn is six months old.
For the JANO project, the most popular Talking Book message was 'How to take care of pregnant mothers,' a song which has been played 11,844 times.
Analyzing Talking Book usage data to understand health and nutrition message performance
Thus far, the project has been able to develop about 38 audio messages from government-approved sources. 208 volunteers are trained and deployed with the Talking Book in seven upazilas (subdistricts), reaching 61,647 participants. Together, people have listened to 112,946 messages. The most popular message was 'How to take care of pregnant mothers,' a song that has been played 11,844 times. The second most popular message was 'How to take care of lactating mothers and children under five' (a song) played 7,673 times, followed by 'Health check-up schedule for pregnant mothers' (a talk) played 7,480 times.
Swasti Gautam is a Program and Communications Officer for CARE. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science with a focus on gender, media, and culture. Connect with her on LinkedIn.