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Story and Perspective

YUVAA’s Digital Innovations

Sarah Peck

Photo: Sarah Peck

India

Across India’s Bihar and Maharashtra states, married couples are joining together to reach young couples with modern contraception.

This story is part of a multi-part series on Pathfinder’s Youth Voices for Agency and Access (YUVAA) project:

Strengthening YUVAA’s digital integration with in-person connections 

COVID-19 presented myriad challenges, but YUVAA’s innovations allowed work to continue

For the past four years, Pathfinder’s YUVAA project has worked at the cutting edge of digital health integration to shift gender and social norms across select districts of Bihar and Maharashtra states in India. At its core, YUVAA works from a model of social entrepreneurship, where young couples, known as Yuvaakaars, work closely with young married couples and first-time parents, providing them with family planning counseling and contraceptive and health product services in their homes. 

Yuvaakaars use digital platforms to deliver communications with the couples they reach. When COVID-19 hit, YUVAA built out its digital approaches, including tele-counseling, interactive games, short films that model healthy behaviors, interactive virtual reality tools, and even mobile ‘talking’ projections used to engage young couples. Today, the physical and the digital are integrated into a single, powerful approach. 

Sandeep and Laxmi Awale are a Safal Couple—a Successful Couple —and Yuvaakaars in Kavatesar Danoli Block Shirol, Maharastra

One such digital tool is YUVAA’s Hello Safal interactive voice response (IVR) system. IVR is a basic phone platform where callers are greeted with a menu of options. IVR  then performs different actions based on the caller’s answers. YUVAA’s Hello Safal platform featured a series of short radio episodes with a range of themes including: saving and investments, approaching pleasure, establishing healthy habits, the benefits of healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, myths and misconceptions about modern contraceptives, making an informed choice about family planning, family planning during COVID-19, emergency contraception, postpartum family planning, and financial planning and readiness. In YUVAA’s past year, more than 400,000 calls were made by over 85,000 callers, and they listened to over 604,450 minutes of content on contraception and family planning. 

Mid-media activities 

YUVAA’s “mid-media” work was a series of innovative digital approaches intended to enhance program visibility and promote male participation in family planning

During the project, YUVAA held ​a 100-day Safal Couple campaign that used immersive technology like virtual reality and talking video projections to project “successful couples” modeling healthy behaviors. The campaign was intended to increase Yuvaakaars visibility and connection to their communities, and it worked! 

Clients use YUVAA virtual reality technology. Photo: Pathfinder India

Over the 100 days, the campaign reached more than 970,000 people who directly engaged in campaign activities. More than 3 million people were exposed to Safal Couple messages through social media platforms, SMS messaging, and FM radio episodes. From these interactions, more than 30,000 community members reached out to Yuvaakaars directly for family planning information and services. YUVAA’s Hello Safal IVR platform noted a significant increase in call traffic as well during the campaign. 

​​Learn more about the Safal Couple campaign.

“Successful Couple” website and chatbot 

YUVAA’s website and chatbot provide anonymous spaces to learn about family planning

Yuvaa’s safalcouple.org website and the easy-to-navigate MiMo Chatbot provide engaging online platforms for young couples to learn more. YUVAA’s MiMo chatbot engages young married couples on Facebook. The chatbot engages individuals and couples in  conversation, particularly men. Unlike most of the bots which have a ‘single’ persona, the YUVAA chatbot has a ‘couples persona’, “MiMo” (Mini & Mohan), which reinforces YUVAA’s approach of couple-to-couple communications.  

Ruksar Aftab Patharaat and Aftab Patharaat are a Safal Couple—a Successful Couple —and Yuvakaars in Kavatesar Danoli Block Shirol, Maharastra

To help support Safal Couples, the MiMo chatbot uses a game format, played by both husband and wife, to build camaraderie and introduce concepts of family planning in a fun and engaging format. MiMo engages married couples with games and quizzes, for example, on how well they know their spouse’s tastes in food and music. It then transitions to incorporate counseling points such as joint decision-making on family planning, improving communication skills amongst the couples, and then providing appropriate guidance for seeking and adopting contraception. 

The chatbot operates in Hindi and Marathi, and has three themed areas: financial management, couples communication, and contraception. It has reached over 2 million people in the two languages, and has a high duration of engagement—approximately four minutes for an average user.

YUVAA’s m-Pari app for health care providers 

YUVAA’s app for health care providers helped with clinical decision-making.

m-Pari, the family planning app co-developed by Pathfinder, strengthens the capacity of healthcare providers to support better clinical decision-making and improve client outcomes. YUVAA mentors used m-Pari as a teaching aid during mentoring visits to health facilities in the YUVAA network. All the YUVAA referral network health care facilities are using the app.  

About 45% of m-Pari users in the YUVAA project area were nurses, including auxiliary nurse midwives, followed by 11.2% of users being doctors. The most explored module was on injectable contraceptives, followed by intra-uterine devices (IUDs). The app has been rated very highly (4.9/5) on Google, and to date, has more than 3,500 downloads. Learn more about m-Pari. 

Capturing data

A one-stop solution for program data

YUVAA’s used a central platform for data management, including activity reporting and tracking, supervisory reporting, data analytics, and recordkeeping of Yuvaakaars’ sales. All Yuvaakaars used this central platform, but when they were away from an internet connection, data was stored in offline mode until one was reconnected. Yuvakaars had color-coded lists to help them track pending activities, and they could mark their daily activities to supervisors through the platform. While the default language of the platform was English, Yuvaakaars could select Marathi or Hindi; 1,200 Yuvaakaars are on the platform, reporting to 74 district supervisors.

Sangita Dilip Awalle, Savita Shukraj Kamble, Pushpa Vikas Kurne, Aruna Pramod Kamble, and Anita Raut are Accredited Social Health Activists. They coordinated with Sandeep and Laxmi Awale, Yuvaakaars, to help reach community members with YUVAA messages

Advocating for digital 

Moving beyond the vacuum, advocating for inclusion

YUVAA showcased its innovative work, generating interest from the government in scaling up use of its digital products. YUVAA developed an ‘advocacy package’ on its Safal Couple campaign, including written documentation and digital assets (like short films and digital job aids).   

In Bihar state, YUVAA used this advocacy package to engage with the government and advocate for the use of digital tools in the public health system to improve the efficiency and quality of family planning services. As a result, the State Health Society of Bihar decided to include YUVAA’s digital job aids and training materials in the Bihar Rural Livelihood Program (Jeevika). These tools will be used to promote health, nutrition, and sanitation among self-help group members. The program has been  promoting family planning and  healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies among 15 million self-help group members in Bihar.

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