Developing a social mobilisation intervention for salt reduction: participatory action research in Bombali district, Sierra Leone
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Cheedella, K., Conteh, P., Zou, G., Walley, J., Kamara, A., Wurie, H. and Witter, S. (2023) ‘Developing a social mobilisation intervention for salt reduction: participatory action research in Bombali district, Sierra Leone’, BMC Public Health, 23(1), p. 1774. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-023-16693-6.
Background: High salt intake is a major risk factor for hypertension, which in turn contributes to cardiovascular diseases, the major cause of death from non communicable diseases (NCDs). Research is limited on social mobilisation interventions to tackle NCDs, including in fragile health settings such as Sierra Leone. Methods: Participatory action research methods were used to develop a social mobilisation intervention for salt reduction in Bombali District, Sierra Leone. A team of 20 local stakeholders were recruited to develop and deliver the intervention. Stakeholder workshop reports and interviews were used to record outcomes, enablers, and barriers to the intervention. Focus group discussions were used to observe knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours of community members pre- and post- the intervention. Results: Stakeholders showed enthusiasm and were well engaged in the social mobilisation process around salt reduction. They developed radio jingles, radio show talks, organised community awareness raising meetings, school sensitisation outreaches, and door to door engagements. Stakeholders reported benefiting personally through developing their own skills and confidence in communication and felt positive about their role in educating their community. The interventions led to reported increased awareness of risks of high salt intake and NCDs, resulting in a reduction of salt use in the community, leading to perceived health gains. However, salt reduction was also met with some resistance due to social factors. Local community structures were also reactivated to work on the interventions and connect the community to the local health facility, which saw an increase in patients having their blood pressure checked. The comparison villages also experienced an increase in awareness and perceived reductions in salt intake behaviours. This was as messages had cascaded via the radio and initial focus group discussions. The social mobilisation stakeholders also agreed on future activities that could continue at no or low cost. Conclusion: Social mobilisation interventions can provide low-cost strategies to tackle NCDs in fragile settings such as Sierra Leone through the utilisation of community structures. However, more research is required to ascertain the key enablers for replicability and if such successes can be sustained over a longer follow up period.