Evaluation of a community-based mobile video breastfeeding intervention in Khayelitsha, South Africa: The Philani MOVIE cluster-randomized controlled trial

Maya Adam*, Jamie Johnston, Nophiwe Job, Mithilesh Dronavalli, Ingrid Le Roux, Nokwanele Mbewu, Neliswa Mkunqwana, Mark Tomlinson, Shannon A. McMahon, Amnesty E. LeFevre, Alain Vandormael, Kira-Leigh Kuhnert, Pooja Suri, Jennifer Gates, Bongekile Mabaso, Aarti Porwal, Charles Prober, Till Bärnighausen, Quique Bassat (Editor)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

Background: In South Africa, breastfeeding promotion is a national health priority. Regular perinatal home visits by community health workers (CHWs) have helped promote exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) in underresourced settings. Innovative, digital approaches including mobile video content have also shown promise, especially as access to mobile technology increases among CHWs. We measured the effects of an animated, mobile video series, the Philani MObile Video Intervention for Exclusive breastfeeding (MOVIE), delivered by a cadre of CHWs (“mentor mothers”).

Methods and findings: We conducted a stratified, cluster-randomized controlled trial from November 2018 to March 2020 in Khayelitsha, South Africa. The trial was conducted in collaboration with the Philani Maternal Child Health and Nutrition Trust, a nongovernmental community health organization. We quantified the effect of the MOVIE intervention on EBF at 1 and 5 months (primary outcomes), and on other infant feeding practices and maternal knowledge (secondary outcomes). We randomized 1,502 pregnant women in 84 clusters 1:1 to 2 study arms. Participants’ median age was 26 years, 36.9% had completed secondary school, and 18.3% were employed. Mentor mothers in the video intervention arm provided standard-of-care counseling plus the MOVIE intervention; mentor mothers in the control arm provided standard of care only. Within the causal impact evaluation, we nested a mixed-methods performance evaluation measuring mentor mothers’ time use and eliciting their subjective experiences through in-depth interviews. At both points of follow-up, we observed no statistically significant differences between the video intervention and the control arm with regard to EBF rates and other infant feeding practices [EBF in the last 24 hours at 1 month: RR 0.93 (95% CI 0.86 to 1.01, P = 0.091); EBF in the last 24 hours at 5 months: RR 0.90 (95% CI 0.77 to 1.04, P = 0.152)]. We observed a small, but significant improvement in maternal knowledge at the 1-month follow-up, but not at the 5-month follow-up. The interpretation of the results from this causal impact evaluation changes when we consider the results of the nested mixed-methods performance evaluation. The mean time spent per home visit was similar across study arms, but the intervention group spent approximately 40% of their visit time viewing videos. The absence of difference in effects on primary and secondary endpoints implies that, for the same time investment, the video intervention was as effective as face-to-face counseling with a mentor mother. The videos were also highly valued by mentor mothers and participants. Study limitations include a high loss to follow-up at 5 months after premature termination of the trial due to the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in mentor mother service demarcations.

Conclusions: This trial measured the effect of a video-based, mobile health (mHealth) intervention, delivered by CHWs during home visits in an underresourced setting. The videos replaced about two-fifths of CHWs’ direct engagement time with participants in the intervention arm. The similar outcomes in the 2 study arms thus suggest that the videos were as effective as face-to-face counselling, when CHWs used them to replace a portion of that counselling. Where CHWs are scarce, mHealth video interventions could be a feasible and practical solution, supporting the delivery and scaling of community health promotion services.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1003744
JournalPLoS Medicine
Volume18
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2021

Keywords

  • Research Article
  • People and places
  • Medicine and health sciences
  • Research and analysis methods

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