Breakthrough ACTION + RESEARCH Resources from the USAID Zika Response

Written by: Alex Reed and Reshma Naik

In 2016, USAID launched a response to prevent the transmission and spread of Zika, a once little-known virus spread through the bite of an infected Aedes aegypti mosquito, person to person through sexual intercourse, and from a mother to her unborn baby. Mother-to-child transmission can result in severe birth defects, including what is now known as congenital Zika syndrome.

USAID’s Zika response addressed four interconnected lines of effort, with Breakthrough ACTION + RESEARCH addressing key social and behavior change (SBC) issues. Since 2016, these two flagship projects have compiled lessons learned, best practices, and resources from their work in SBC programming.

Among the main takeaways from the USAID Zika response is that behavior prioritization is one of the most effective practices in SBC programming. At the outset of the response, more than 30 behaviors were being promoted, which hindered the effectiveness of SBC efforts. As a result, Breakthrough ACTION + RESEARCH developed resources that outline seven key prevention behaviors and include consistent, specific, and actionable information for Zika prevention.

Another takeaway that emerged during the response is the importance of strengthening frontline workers’ capacity in the early stages of implementation. Breakthrough ACTION created practical tools for field team trainings and home visits to assist community volunteers and health promoters to effectively communicate prevention behaviors. These tools included job aids and facilitator guides that clearly explain the key behaviors for Zika prevention and provide step-by-step instructions on how to implement trainings to field teams. To ensure that SBC programming is evidence-based, Breakthrough ACTION + RESEARCH conducted and disseminated research that explored various social and behavioral determinants related to Zika prevention in countries including Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Jamaica.

To inform and strengthen future SBC programming for Zika and similar epidemics, Breakthrough ACTION + RESEARCH have published a Trending Topic on the Compass, which includes behavior prioritization documents, practical tools, research reports, lessons learned, and success stories from their USAID Zika response.