Supporting Breastfeeding Interventions for Faith-Based Organizations

Step 2: Analyze the Situation

A situation analysis is the systematic collection and study of information to identify trends, forces and conditions related to the problem you are trying to solve. In SBCC, it will help you gain a deeper understanding of the opportunities, challenges and barriers to change. A situation analysis studies:

  • The people affected and their needs
  • Social and cultural norms
  • Potential constraints on individual and collective change
  • Potential facilitators of individual and collective change
  • Audiences’ access to and use of communication channels (such as brochures, television, and SMS).
  • The status of the behavior in question, including the knowledge and practices of the audiences as well as policies that impact the behavior.

In short, the situation analysis describes where we are now.

The situation analysis should help you answer five big questions:

  1. What is the child health situation here that demands a breastfeeding intervention?
  2. What are the current breastfeeding practices in this community/country?
  3. Where, with whom, and to what extent do feeding practices need to be changed?
  4. Who and what influence breastfeeding practices in the community/country?
  5. What are the best ways to reach priority groups with breastfeeding messages and interventions? (FBOs will want to be sure to identify faith-related assets they can use, such as religious texts and teachings, religious groups and leaders, groups within religious institutions such as women’s groups, men’s groups, religious broadcasts, and other available assets.)


A good situation analysis provides a detailed picture of the current state of the health problem or behavior you want to address. This information is crucial for making decisions about what the SBCC strategy will entail and how it will be implemented. Ultimately, it affects how successful the strategy is.

First, decide on a framework for presenting findings in a useful way. We have used a simple framework to help focus the search for information:

Health and Breastfeeding Context

  • Health Context
  • Breastfeeding Context

Audience and Communication Analysis

  • Individual family and community level
  • Health system level
  • Societal and political level


Appendix C contains a comprehensive list of questions showing the type of information you need in order to develop a successful SBCC strategy. When considering your own national or sub-national situation analysis, keep in mind that you should carefully select questions that meet the particular needs of the program and the region. It is not necessary to use all of the sample questions listed.

Next, look at the information you already have or that is available from known sources. Save the Children’s Superfood for Babies and UNICEF’s Breastfeeding on the Worldwide Agenda provide global perspectives on commitment for and barriers to breastfeeding issues and some country-specific information. Infant and young child feeding (IYCF) and RMNCH policies and guidelines might provide information and analysis of the breastfeeding situation.

Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) should also have country-specific information. Some countries or country programs have employed national nutrition assessments that include breastfeeding. Also look for quantitative and qualitative research conducted by NGOs, Demographic Surveillance Sites, or private sector market researchers, such as Nielsen.

Now decide if you have all the information you need, especially on the social and behavioral drivers of infant and young child feeding practices in your area. If you do not, decide how you will get the missing information. Typically, this can involve formative research through a stakeholder consultation, focus groups and interviews with members of primary and influencing audiences and/or facility surveys (health, social service, religious or other facilities). Interviewing priority audience members and influencers is especially helpful in identifying local beliefs and practices as well as the reasons for them.
Formative research is an activity conducted at the beginning of the SBCC project design process. It is used to gain insight into the health issue or behavior the project intends to address; relevant characteristics of primary and secondary audiences; communication access, habits and preferences; and the main drivers of behavior. Formative research is critical to developing program materials, tools and approaches that are culturally and geographically appropriate. For tools and more information on how to conduct formative research, see the How to Conduct Qualitative Formative Research here.

The Basics: Planning for Formative Research for Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices also provides formative research guidance and sample research tools.

Organize the situation analysis findings in a way that makes them easy to use and helps you focus on the most important information, as in Table 1, below. (You can do this as you gather the information.) Factors associated with optimal and suboptimal breastfeeding practices could be individual, family, community, and structural.

Table 1. Framework for organizing situation analysis findings

Audience Current Behaviors Factors associated with suboptimal breastfeeding practices Factors associated with optimal breastfeeding practices
Primary Audience
Influencing Audience
Religious leaders
Faith communities
Community Health Workers

[Download this table as a Word document.]

Finally, select only a few key factors from Table 1 that the SBCC strategy will address. While it is tempting to address all factors, successful communication programs focus on the factors that will have the biggest impact given available resources. In your setting, where are you likely to have the most impact? Household beliefs and practices? Breastfeeding mothers busy working at home and on the farm? No (or not enforced) active breastfeeding policy in health facilities? Breastfeeding knowledge and counseling skills of health staff and volunteers? Another area/topic?

Table 2 offers a series of questions to guide the selection of priorities to address. It helps you think through what your findings mean and what you can do about them. As you think about your core problems, continue to ask “why” these problems exist. For example, if one core problem to optimal breastfeeding is that, “Women with the heavy workload stop breastfeeding after 2-3 months,” ask why that is the case, and for each answer, ask “why” again until the root causes of the problem are clear.

Table 2. Selection of strategic priorities

What? (Core Problems) Why? So What? Now What?
Data Collection: Key facts collected during the situation analysis Root Cause Analysis: Key facts collected during the situation analysis Data Analysis: Implications that the facts may have on the SBCC strategy Strategic Priorities: Identify which problems to address in the SBCC strategy. Limit to 3-5 strategic priorities in order to focus the plan.
Examples for breastfeeding:
Women with a heavy workload stop breastfeeding after 2-3 months Why? Families expect them to work. Why? Husbands don’t know about the importance of breastfeeding. Families need the extra income for food. Interventions are needed to foster a support system within the family to help relieve a mothers’ workload and support her breastfeeding practices. Inform women and families of the child’s need to breastfeed. Encourage family members (e.g., husbands and mothers-in-law) to help relieve mothers of their household responsibilities so they can practice optimal breastfeeding.
Source: Population Services International The DELTA Companion: Marketing Planning Made Easy.


lllustrative example: Situation Analysis


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