Journal Article

Evidence-based process for prioritizing positive behaviors for promotion: Zika prevention in Latin America and the Caribbean and applicability to future health emergency responses

Since the 2015 Zika outbreak in Latin America and the Caribbean, a plethora of behavior change messages have been promoted to reduce Zika transmission. One year after the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) initiated its Zika response, more than 30 variants of preventive behaviors were being promoted. This situation challenged social and behavior change (SBC) programming efforts that require a coordinated response and agreed upon set of focus behaviors to be effective. To support USAID implementing partners in harmonizing prevention efforts to reduce Zika infection, we developed an evidence-based process to identify behaviors with the highest potential to reduce Zika infection and transmission. We compiled a full list of behaviors and selected the most promising for a full evidence review. The review included systematic keyword searches on Google Scholar, extraction of all relevant published articles on Aedes-borne diseases between 2012 and 2018, review of seminal papers, and review of gray literature. We examined articles to determine each behavior's potential effectiveness in preventing Zika transmission or reducing the Aedes aegypti population. We also developed assessment criteria to delineate the ease with which the target population could adopt each behavior, including: (1) required frequency; (2) feasibility of the behavior; and (3) accessibility and cost of the necessary materials in the setting. These behaviors were refined through a consensus-building process with USAID's Zika implementing partners, considering contextual factors. The resulting 7 evidence-based preventive behaviors have high potential to strengthen SBC programming's impact in USAID's Zika response: (1) apply mosquito repellent, (2) use condoms during pregnancy, (3) remove standing water, (4) cover water storage containers, (5) clean/remove mosquito eggs from water containers, (6) seek antenatal care, and (7) seek family planning counseling. This case study documents a flexible process that can be adapted to inform the prioritization of behaviors when there is limited evidence available, as during many emergency responses.