Food for the Hungry Logo Barrier Analysis: A Tool for Improving Behavior Change Communication in Child Survival and Community Development Programs
Background Information
What is Barrier Analysis
Behavior change theory
Seeing the need
Fisherman story
Seven steps
The "Exercise" exercise
How to Conduct Barrier Analysis

Masai villagers shaking hands

  Seeing the Need

Let’s say that you find out, through qualitative methods, that diarrhea is a problem in most of your project communities, and that some mothers know how to make ORS and others do not. You have not quantified the problem yet, but you know that it is probably a problem from focus groups and key informant interviews with health workers and others in the community. (Since there are so few people who are in your focus groups and you do not select the participants randomly, you cannot be sure if you are getting a true picture of what is happening. But at least you know what to look for and measure and what terms to use when asking about it.) At this point, you do a KPC survey and find that:

  • 40% of children had diarrhea in the past two weeks
  • 5% of mothers of children are purifying their water, almost all of them by boiling water
  • 80% of mothers say that they know how to purify water using bleach, but only 5% of them are using bleach to purify their water

Why don’t these mothers use bleach if they know how to use it for purification?

You do not know: How would you? The KPC survey will not answer this why question, and quantitative methods are usually not the best way to answer these why questions. You may have some “pet theories” and anecdotal evidence, but that is not good enough for program planning.

Let’s say that you saw bleach in most stores when you visited the communities, so you know that people have access to bleach. Would you begin promoting the use of bleach to purify water at this point?

No. You would need to first determine why people are not using bleach. Repeating over and over that people should chlorinate their water most likely will fail to bring about a change. People often have very good reasons for doing the things they do! You need to understand the situation from their point of view.

We will discuss a method for looking into these “barriers” to action and for finding positive attributes of behaviors that you are promoting in your work. This will be a short lesson in behavior change. In the next session we will examine a story that may help us to better understand some of the barriers that keep people from doing what they know they should do.

Next (Fisherman story)

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© November 2004

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