Preventing sanitation failure by using evidence-based behaviour change

Mass media campaign with loudspeaker rickshaw, Bangladesh. Photo: Eawag

Evidenced-based methods are more cost effective than traditional NGO awareness raising approaches to ensure sustained behaviour change in the WASH sector, says environmental psychologist Prof. Hans-Joachim Mosler.

Prof. Mosler

Two of his presentations on evidence-based behaviour change are now available online.  An accompanying guideline for behaviour change [1] was published in June 2012.

Mosler begins his first presentation with examples of failed sanitation and water projects. What they have in common is that they focus on hardware and neglect behaviour change. In one striking study, the construction of new school latrines actually increased health risks among girls because hygiene behaviour did not improve [2].

Drawing from his research on sanitation, handwashing and household water treatment (HWT) projects, Mosler shows how evidence-based behaviour change methods can help prevent failure. His studies include research on the use of shared toilets in Kampala, Uganda, handwashing research in Ethiopia and Haiti conducted for Oxfam America. and the use of arsenic-free safe wells in Bangladesh . A group of HWT behavioural studies looked at solar water disinfection (SODIS) in Bolivia and Zimbabwe, and fluoride removal in Ethiopia.

To determine the factors that influence behaviour, Mosler has developed the Risk, Attitude, Norm, Ability, Self-regulation (RANAS) model.

Hans-Joachim Mosler is a professor at the University of Zürich and a senior researcher and group leader at EAWAG, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology.

[1] Mosler, H-J et al., 2012. A guideline for behaviour change. Dübendorf, Switzerland: EAWAG – Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. Available at: < > [43.5 MB]

[2] Greene, L.E. et al, 2012. Impact of a school-based hygiene promotion and sanitation intervention on pupil hand contamination in Western Kenya: a cluster randomized trial. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2012 Sep;87(3):385-93. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.2012.11-0633 [open access]

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