Actors in the recording studio in Sierra Leone
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High Listenership and Good Stories Combine for Large-Scale Behavior Change in Sierra Leone

Sep 25, 2014

FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE– Imagine that for 53 cents, you could reach someone in Sierra Leone with entertaining stories that educate about family planning and using bednets to prevent malaria. A United States nonprofit discovered this month that they didn’t have to imagine – the impact was real.

Population Media Center (PMC), a nonprofit, international organization that strives to improve the health and well-being of people around the world with entertainment-education strategies, recently completed an impact evaluation of one of its programs in Sierra Leone. Saliwansai (“Puppet on a String”) was a 208-episode drama that aired on nine radio stations throughout Sierra Leone from April 2012 through April 2014.

“We’re excited by the results from the research survey, which was conducted with a nationally representative sample size of 1,098 respondents,” says Kriss Barker, PMC’s Vice President of International Programs. “The results clearly demonstrate the impact of the radio drama. It was entertaining, and the people of Sierra Leone tuned in.”

The results indicate that Saliwansai reached a total estimated audience of three million people between the ages of 15 and 59 years old. The results also estimate that the cost per behavior change for the listeners who, as a result of listening to the program, began discussing family planning with family, friends, or neighbors was $2.54 US and listeners who began using bednets to prevent malaria was $1.62 US.

“The cost per behavior change is important and demonstrates the power of our approach,” says Barker. “Behavior is a hard thing to change and to do it for these costs is remarkable.”

PMC uses a unique form of entertainment-education: long-running serial dramas on radio and TV. These dramas are based on real-life, mirroring every day challenges and solutions and using country data to determine which social and health issues will be addressed in each drama.

The results of Saliwansai on individual metrics demonstrate varying levels of success, such as listeners being:

“Results like these are promising,” says Scott Connolly, PMC’s Director of Research. “Sierra Leone  ranks as one of the lowest in the world on some of the United Nations Human Development Index health indicators. We’re pleased to address some of these issues with Saliwansai as part of the ongoing effort to improve life in Sierra Leone.”


Population Media Center is a nonprofit, international nongovernmental organization, which strives to improve the health and well-being of people around the world through the use of entertainment-education strategies, like serialized dramas on radio and television, in which characters evolve into role models for the audience for positive behavior change. Founded in 1998, PMC has over 15 years of field experience using the Sabido methodology of behavior change communications, impacting more than 50 countries around the world.