H.E Dr. Keseteberhan Admasu Speech on the International SBCC Summit, 2016, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Dr Kesete Admasu at SBCC summit 2016Welcome:

Mr. Peter Vrooman, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy

Jim Ocitti, Public Information Management Division,

UN Economic Commission on Africa,

Ms. Susan Krenn, Executive Director, Johns Hopkins Center for    Communication Programs

Distinguished guest and ladies and gentlemen

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Welcome to you all and welcome to Ethiopia.

I am glad that, after having thoroughly vetted other countries, Ethiopia was chosen as the venue to host the first Social and Behavior Change Summit – I see this as a reflection and acknowledgement of Ethiopia's commitment to Social Behavioral Communication Change Communication or known as SBCC -- as one of the key vehicles used to improve people's health –thank you, we are honored!

Moreover, I'm pleased to see that that so many talented, creative and committed communication professionals will be in attendance, because, my understanding is that this Summit is expected to elevate the science and art of SBCC in health.

Ladies and gentlemen …

Over the past two decades, in Ethiopia, we have made significant and noteworthy improvements in terms of the overall health of our people.  One of the key contributory factors to this success was the constant, thoughtful and consistent use of health communication to inform, educate, and mobilize both citizens and health workers. Contextually calibrated, SBCC has been proven to increase knowledge, shift attitudes and cultural norms and produce changes in a wide variety of behaviors. 

Using our Health Extension Program and Health Development Army as platforms for communicating valid, reliable, useful and timely information, SBCC has proven effective in increasing the use of family planning methods, preventing HIV and AIDS, reducing the spread of malaria, infectious diseases, and improving newborn and maternal health.

It is in a belief that effective communication can truly save lives that in our next 5 year Health Sector Transformation Plan that we have decided to take the power of communication to the next level as we engage health workers, communities and individuals to work together to achieve a healthy society.  To this end, our plan is to (1) increase the health and health system literacy of the public to improve the quality of care and (2) enhance evidence-based health education and behavioral change communication as key areas of priority.

As our planning, budgeting and implementation is integrated, Ethiopia's SBCC is also integrated – which is "iterative in process"-- where "community dialogue" and "collective action" work together to produce social change in a community improving the health and welfare of all of its members.

While communication for behavioral or social change is valued as a process in and of itself, what is even more important is that – the community owns the process of problem identification, group decision making, action planning, collective action and implementation – as the community grapples and comes with their own home grown solutions.  In other words – not only do they own the process, they produce and own their health – as the expression goes, they are the captains of their ship!

Therefore, the questions I challenge you to pose and deliberate in this Summit are as follows:

  1. How do we ensure the sustainability of behavioral change by supporting the ownership of process and content of communication by individuals and communities most affected?
  2. How do we make communication for behavioral change empowering, horizontal -- rather than top-down -- and support the engagement of all in the community, not only the vocal, but also the voiceless?
  3. How do we ensure that communities are change agents of their own change?
  4. How do we shift from persuasion and transmission of information by know it all– to, deliberation, debate and negotiation on issues that resonate with members of the community? And finally,
  5. How do we support the development of a conducive atmosphere for SBCC to be owned and managed by communities?

Finally, I believe, SBCC should be geared towards the facilitation of community dialogue and collective action, in which members of a community take action as a group to solve a common problem – which significantly increases the collective capacity to solve new problems.  I do implore you never to underestimate the power of the power of communities to effect change – when they do – not only do they own the change – but also take the responsibility to make the change work! 

Thank you, and now, I pronounce the Summit to be officially open and wish you all the best for a successful Summit and pleasant stay in Addis.