Researching water storage in Jamaica to prevent mosquito-borne illness
Forty-five and fifty-five gallon drums are ubiquitous with Jamaican culture, generally used for storing household water.
In many fringe-urban and rural homes, this is the primary source of water, while in urban homes water is kept in drums “just in case” - although water supply is often much more reliable.
But these drums make for ideal breeding sites for the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the primary transmitter of Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya viruses. This typically-Jamaican cultural practice is contributing to the transmission of diseases that could be preventable with some behavioural change.
Covering water sources is often promoted as a simple solution to preventing mosquito breeding, however many challenges remain in consistently achieving effective covering.
While the Jamaican Ministry of Health (MoH) Vector Control Unit has identified water drums as one of the most proliferous sources of mosquitoes on the island, there is a strong need to understand the full extent of the environmental, structural and behavioural challenges related to water storage.
To change behaviour around water storage it is important to know how that behaviour functions and why.
The MoH tasked ThinkPlace, alongside Johns Hopkins University Centre for Communication Programs (JHU CCP) as part of the Breakthrough ACTION consortium, with undertaking a human-centred design approach to uncover rich insights around the use of water storage drums and around water storage behaviours more generally in areas of Jamaica with inconsistent access to piped water.
The ultimate goal? To design and test interventions that could be implemented by the MoH to improve water storage practices throughout Jamaica, diminishing ideal breeding sites for the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
Although much research has been conducted on water storage and mosquito breeding sites, the human-centred approach is novel in the Jamaican context as it allows for solutions to be developed iteratively with community members, rather than developing solutions in isolation for them, which has been the traditional practice to date.
The discovery research was led by ThinkPlace and also involved a team from CCP and was assisted by local researchers. It uncovered, among other crucial insights, that many misconceptions exist about how mosquitoes breed and why people cover some water containers and not others, as well as deeply-rooted social norms around water storage.
This new understanding of the behavioural challenges surrounding water storage pointed the team towards a range of opportunities for intervention.
HOW WE DID IT
Following a collaborative ‘Imagine’ workshop with key stakeholders from the MoH and Vector Control Services to generate, develop and refine ideas, eight concepts emerged that were tested in-situ with both urban and peri-urban communities surrounding Kingston.
Through this iterative testing process, it was found that some of the ideas were desirable by community members but not feasible, and experimentation with these concepts was discontinued.
Ultimately, four interventions emerged as having the most potential to create sustained behavioural change around water storage practices: a complete revision of the vector control workflow, a multi-channel communication program, a drum exchange program, and a group of structural and product-based solutions.
The MoH was provided with comprehensive recommendations and implementation plans for the four interventions, along with briefs for contracting creative agencies to tackle the communication program and product design challenges that remained.
Feedback from the MoH’s involvement throughout the project was very positive.
You have given us much to work with, not just with the solution but with the methodology used and your approach. It was great. A job very well done.