Establish a Reference Point

For indicators to show any change or progress towards the communication objectives, a reference point needs to be established. A reference point acts as a measure of comparison, a starting point or baseline, which allows a programmer to determine the amount of progress that is being made. The reference point is usually defined before or at the very beginning of an intervention. However, during an emergency, time pressures may not allow for in-depth baseline data collection. In such cases, reference points can be established once the communication response has started.

The table below describes the different stages at which reference points can be determined and highlights specific considerations for gathering baseline data during each stage of the emergency.

Stage at Which Reference Points can be Established Description Considerations for an Emergency Setting
Prior to the communication response Reference points are established just before the communication response begins. This is generally referred to as a baseline.

In an emergency, obtaining baseline data in advance should be part of the preparedness strategy.

Obtain information from existing secondary sources such as KAP surveys or epidemiological statistics in order to establish a reference point should an outbreak occur. Review this data regularly to ensure it is up to date.

Once the communication response has begun At this stage, scanning for any existing data relating to program indicators and targeting the intended audiences can help provide a reference point. Examples of such data sources include DHS, health statistics and UNICEF MICS. If no comparable data exist, use the program indicators to start measuring the current state at the onset of the program and use that as the reference point.
When the communication response is over Although not ideal, a reference point can also be established at the end of the intervention through a control group. This involves collecting data on program indicators among a sample group that was not exposed to the intervention and with similar characteristics to those targeted. In emergency settings, this may not be a feasible option because the fear and risks that are associated with an outbreak are likely to warrant interventions that cover areas and populations beyond those directly affected by the emergency.