Since 2000, global efforts have saved over 7.6 million lives from malaria and prevented more than 1.5 billion cases. Last year was more critical than ever in malaria control, as countries faced unprecedented challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Health Organization urged countries to ensure the continuity of malaria services during this challenging time, and Malaria No More and its partners, Facebook, Times Group of India, Star, Sony Entertainment, and WPP India, took up the charge.

These partners, under the banner of “Bite Ko Mat Lo Lite” (Hinglish for “Don’t Take the Bite Lightly”) developed an information campaign to spread life-saving messages about getting tested and treated within 24 hours of the onset of fever and sleeping under a bednet every night. The project ran in three stages: analysis of public Facebook posts, developing and running the campaign, and measuring impact.

Analysis of Public Posts and Campaign Development

The Data for Good Facebook team conducted analysis of public posts on Facebook to understand the conversation about mosquito-borne disease in India. This analysis informed the important messages to focus on and how to reach different audiences.

From the analysis, we learned that women tended to emphasize family and protection against mosquitoes, while men tended to emphasize the systemic aspects of malaria control such as government, healthcare, symptoms, treatment, and awareness days. Younger audiences, especially in the 18-24 age bucket, were posting about malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases at a lower rate when compared to older users, while older demographics were disproportionately more likely to post about mosquito-borne disease. The post analysis also found that rural populations were posting about malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases at a lower rate than people living in urban areas, though malaria disproportionately affects rural populations. Rural populations were also less likely to post in English.

All of these insights were useful for development of the campaign content. The team developed content targeted towards men highlighting test-seeking and incorporating references from the sport cricket, while content for women highlighted children and motherhood. The content development team also used meme-styled content and humor to engage younger audiences, as well as ads specifically for grandparents encouraging them to have their grandchildren tested if they experience malaria symptoms. The campaign also included Hindi and Hinglish messages that would appeal to rural audiences and highlighted rural frontline health workers.

Evaluating the Campaign

The full campaign reached approximately 110 million Facebook users in India and to evaluate impact, we conducted a survey of Facebook users over four weeks by comparing a sample of people who saw the ads (treatment group) to those who did not (control group).

In comparing both groups, when asked about whether they recalled seeing the campaign ads in the previous 2 days, the treatment group recalled the ads at a rate +4.6 percentage points higher than the control group, indicating the ads were memorable. People who saw the malaria campaign were also +2.6 percentage points more likely to seek treatment and testing for fever compared to those who had not, a statistically significant result.

Looking Forward

The collaboration with Malaria No More and Facebook demonstrates that data-driven partnerships that leverage insights from social media can encourage positive health seeking behaviors. Overall, the campaign reached millions of users in high-risk malaria states and the results of the survey showed that the ads were effective in promoting test seeking. Malaria No More will be taking these lessons learned and continuing to refine the Bite Ko Mat Lo Lite campaign to reach more Indians and spread the impact even further in even more languages.

To see the full case study, click here.

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