Identifying determinants of effective complementary feeding behaviour change interventions in developing countries


As stunting moves to the forefront of the global agenda, there is substantial evidence that behaviour change interventions (BCI) can improve infant feeding practices and growth. However, this evidence has not been translated into improved outcomes on a national level because we do not know enough about what makes these interventions work, for whom, when, why, at what cost and for how long. Our objective was to examine the design and implementation of complementary feeding BCI, from the peer‐reviewed literature, to identify generalisable key determinants. We identified 29 studies that evaluated BCI efficacy or effectiveness, were conducted in developing countries, and reported outcomes on infant and young children aged 6–24 months.

Two potential determinants emerged:

  1. effective studies used formative research to identify cultural barriers and enablers to optimal feeding practices, to shape the intervention strategy, and to formulate appropriate messages and mediums for delivery;
  2. effective studies delineated the programme impact pathway to the target behaviour change and assessed intermediary behaviour changes to learn what worked. We found that BCI that used these developmental and implementation processes could be effective despite heterogeneous approaches and design components.

Our analysis was constrained, however, by the limited published data on how design and implementation were carried out, perhaps because of publishing space limits. Information on cost‐effectiveness, sustainability and scalability was also very limited. We suggest a more comprehensive reporting process and a more strategic research agenda to enable generalisable evidence to accumulate.

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