Rapid Evidence Summary on Mass Communication
The impact of mass media interventions (including radio) is mixed. Systematic review evidence points to small to medium impacts on knowledge outcomes and reduction of a limited set of high-risk behaviors. The systematic literature focuses on health multi-component interventions often implemented in low to middle-income settings. The few studies within each review, which are relevant to IRC’s contexts, were conducted in more stable countries such as Tanzania, Uganda and Bangladesh. The quality of the systematic reviews is questionable since the reviews did not include an assessment of the quality of the studies or the evidence of the risk of bias. Impact evaluations of radio programming in humanitarian contexts (Rwanda, DRC) focus on improving intergroup attitudinal and behavioral outcomes. The results are also mixed as improvements in some norms and intergroup behaviors are observed but attitudes and beliefs either do not change or become more negative, especially when radio programming is followed by discussion activities. Overall, the literature focuses on short-term effects (e.g. 1 year after the intervention) and many studies are unable to parse out the impact of radio programming alone. A qualitative synthetic review provides insights to the conditions under which clients are more likely to value and benefit from radio broadcasting in humanitarian settings. While radio programming may show some promise, it is important to reflect carefully on the outcome of focus (knowledge vs. attitudes vs. behaviors), the preferences and experiences of the specific target population as well as the norms, institutions and other initiatives occurring within the given environment.