U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission
At the International Social and Behavior Change
United Nations Conference Center (ECA Compound)
February 8, 2016
U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa
(As prepared for delivery)
On behalf of the U.S. Government, it is a pleasure to help open this International Social and Behavior Change Communication Summit. From around the globe, people have gathered here in Addis Ababa for this inagural and historic event to recognize the power of behavior change communication – the power to help solve the world’s most pressing health problems and save lives!
The conference is also an opportunity to recognize the hard work of the many partners who have come together—international organizations, NGOs and civil society organizations, donors, governments and communities—not only to make this summit happen but also to push out the message that effective behavior change communication is essential for a well-functioning health sector.
Throughout the world — knowledge, attitudes, norms and cultural practices have a significant impact on health and well-being. Social and behavior change communication programs apply the most powerful and fundamental human interaction—communication—to positively influence these social dimensions of health and well-being.
Research consistently shows that evidence-based communication programs can increase knowledge, shift attitudes and cultural norms, and produce positive changes. Social and behavior change communication has proven effective in a range of health areas: To increase the use of family planning methods; to reduce the spread of malaria and other infectious diseases; to prevent HIV and AIDS, and improve newborn and maternal health.
These are all goals we are working together on to achieve, but there is more work to do. As President Obama said in his speech at the United Nations in New York a few months ago, “When eleven boys and girls die every single minute from preventable causes, we know we have more work to do. When hundreds of women die every single day just from having a baby, we know we have more work to do. When hundreds of millions of people have no clean water, no toilets, we have so much more to do.”
The U.S. Government is a leader in addressing health challenges throughout the world. And here in Ethiopia, we have a joint commitment with the Government of Ethiopia to improve the health and lives of all Ethiopian families and advance behavior change communication. That joint commitment is exemplified through USAID’s Social and Behavior Change Communication activity, which we will officially launch with the Ministry of Health in just a few minutes. The activity will ensure strong coordination and evidence-based health communication in key components of the public health priorities of the country.
In closing, I hope that this summit is fruitful for all of you, both in the sessions and through the networking you will be doing, I trust that you will be helping to elevate the science of social and behavior change communication. And, in doing so, you will be contributing to better health practices around the world.
Amasegenalehu, and thank you very much!