A Companion to Digital Sexual and Reproductive Health

This piece was originally featured on the DISC blog.

By Abigail Winskell, Deputy Director, Delivering Innovation in Self-Care (DISC), PSI 

Meet Tina: she’s the friend that every woman needs—she is discreet, available whenever necessary and gives advice tailored to your needs. And she’s a virtual companion who provides easy access to sexual and reproductive health information. Accessible through WhatsApp, Facebook and any Web browser, Tina is a one-stop shop to access information about self-inject and other contraceptives, locate the nearest healthcare provider and find training resources to use at home. 

This virtual companion is at the intersection of self-care and digital health, both of which are working to increase access and reach of services and move healthy systems closer towards the goal of universal health care. The platform, personified by Tina, was developed based on the Digital Self-Care Framework developed by PSI and partners under the auspices of the Self-Care Trailblazer Group, which provides practical guidance for effectively designing, implementing and researching digital health in support of self-care. The framework outlines four domains that ensure quality digital self-care interventions:   

  • User experience: Person-centered self-care requires that the target audience’s needs, and experiences are the driving force behind the intervention. Not only was Tina designed with users in mind, but it was piloted with them, and has an in-built feedback mechanism to continuously enhance the user’s experience.  
  • Privacy and confidentiality: These were built into Tina from the very start, and the companion is hosted on an encrypted platform that offers instructions on deleting conversations in the chat should users feel the need to. 
  • Quality assurance:  Tina directs users to the closest healthcare provider and can even help them make appointments with those providers. She does not replace engagement with a healthcare provider; she enhances it by helping users ask informed questions.  
  • Accountability and responsibility The virtual companion complies with regulations that both Nigeria and Uganda have in place regarding sexual and reproductive health and rights and self-care. 

The digital health companion is one piece of the ‘Discover Your Power’ campaign, which is intended to inspire women to take control of their bodies and consequently, their lives. Designed by PSI’s Delivering Innovation in Self-Care (DISC) program, the campaign goes beyond digital spaces, also reaching women in marketplaces and other locations where they normally gather. It also utilizes radio, a popular medium in both Nigeria and Uganda, which helps to normalize the concept of self-injectable contraception. The research we carried out to inform our strategy reflects that—even though male partners or influencers may disapprove of women’s decision-making power over their lives—women are determined to exercise their power and realize their life goals, including their sexual and reproductive goals. ‘Discover Your Power’, which focuses on contraceptive self-injection, or DMPA-SC, supports women to Dream, Move, Plan and Aspire (DMPA) to be exactly who they want to be, and when.  

We are also collaborating with influencers, who are using their social media platforms to give the campaign more visibility. Our campaign features ‘macro’ and ‘micro’ digital influencers—we co-create content that drives relevance of contraceptive and self-injection, as well as sparking conversation. DISC also partners with the Kenya-based influencer marketing platform, AIfluence Inc., that has built a network of nano-influencers. Nano-influencers have small followings on social media but are highly influential. Through leveraging influencers, we are testing a hypothesis that learning about self-injection from a friend or peer is more authentic than being advertised to through a ‘brand’. The high click-through rates and engagement levels during our nano-influencer campaign suggested this is true. Since the launch of ‘Discover Your Power’, we have had over 550,000 clicks to learn more about our campaign and self-injection.  

Examples of Influencer Posts 

Our digital companion has steadily grown, and we currently have 14,000 registered users. However, knowing that the total number of smart phone users within our catchment areas and among our target demographic groups is much higher, we believe there is potential to dramatically increase our reach and engagement.  

To do so, we wanted to learn more about why there is such a large drop off in consumers engaging with Tina. We went back to our nano-influencer network to gather insights from users and non-users. With their help, we were able to gather direct feedback from a large audience rapidly, engage in-depth about each pain point and validate the problem with other users. Based on our findings, we have already implemented some changes, such as improving our campaign’s call-to-action and simplifying the menu of our website. These optimizations have contributed towards decreasing our bounce rate by 10% and increasing our registration completion rate by 29%, in addition to growing our base of companion users. 

Want to learn more about our findings and campaign optimizations? Click here to check out a short video on this topic! 

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