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Special Journal: Global Health Solutions from the 3rd International SBCC Summit in Marrakech

A new issue of The Journal of Health Communication, entitled “The Role of Social and Behavioral Change Communication to Address Inequities and Disparities in Public Health,” focuses on 10 research highlights from the third International Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Summit, held in Marrakech, Morocco in Dec. 2022.

The five-day event, which brought together 1,800 participants from 129 countries, delved into critical global issues, from environmental crises to gender equity, health disparities, wealth inequalities, racial justice, and humanitarian action. The Summit aimed to explore individual behavior change as well as to address structural determinants of behavior and social change. The event also sought to foster social movements and amplify new voices for change, with more than 40 percent of participants attending from low- and middle-income countries, and 10 percent under 24 years old.

The supplemental issue of the Journal of Health Communication contains papers based on themes and presentations from the Summit. Together, they “point toward a field of constant fermentation, growth, redefinition, innovation, and most importantly, interdisciplinary dialogue,” write Douglas Storey, who retired from the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs in 2023 and was chair of the Summit Program sub-committee, and Rafael Obregon, the UNICEF Country Representative in Paraguay and member of the Summit Secretariat.

“Global events like the Summit will continue to provide critical opportunities to learn, share, debate, and evolve as a field, with a strong focus on the role of theory and evidence. The Summit and these papers reinforce the centrality of communication processes, inclusive engagement, local culture, and human rights in our efforts to support social and behavioral change around the world.”

Studies in the special issue showcased the power of SBCC in addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic. In South Africa, Meghann Jones and colleagues explore behavioral nudges to overcome barriers to COVID vaccine acceptance. The strategies ranged from informing and enabling to incentivizing and mandating, revealing nuanced approaches to tackle vaccine hesitancy.

Meanwhile, from India, Vibha Gupta and Sarita Anand of the University of Delhi highlight the effectiveness of an experiential classroom learning approach in teaching germ theory and hand hygiene to children in poverty settings. Through entertainment education, they emphasized the enduring role of storytelling in SBCC initiatives.

From Turkey, Altug Akin, Selin Turkel and Pinar Umul Unsal discuss university-based community service practices in Turkey, where students engaged in combating misinformation during the pandemic as part of their academic training. This approach strengthened civic engagement among young adults and provided a scalable platform for addressing other social issues.

Kathryn L. Hopkins and her colleagues at the Sabin Vaccine Institute write about how they developed an online game aimed at reducing susceptibility to vaccine misinformation, employing humor and human-centered design. Meanwhile, Huanyu Bao and Edmund W. J. Lee of Singapore explore the challenges of creating public trust in a new contact tracing mobile app.

Plans are in the works for the next International Social and Behavior Change Communication Summit. Organizers hope to soon choose a site and dates for the event. Prior to Morocco, previous Summits have been held in Ethiopia and Indonesia.