We want Cambodian elders to actively adopt preventive behaviors so that they can protect themselves from diseases such as COVID-19.

Population Services International (PSI)


Putting lives of the elderly first

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Cambodia in early 2020, as part of the USAID-funded Promoting Healthy Behaviors Project (PHB), 17 Triggers was asked to develop a campaign to specifically reach elderly people, the group most vulnerable during a virus outbreak, with three key preventive behaviors: 

  • wash hands often,
  • practice social distancing, and
  • take care with respiratory hygiene.

We found that while elders are aware of their high-risk status and concerned to avoid the negative consequences of falling ill, such as financial expense and loss of autonomy, they did not identify their 1-2 hour visits to their neighbors for a chat several times a week as an activity that put them at risk.

Reaching the elderly through trusted sources

The Long Life campaign took two approaches: messaging via radio and village chief activations. 

A key insight leveraged in the campaign was that elders are often spoken about, never directly spoken to, but elders in Cambodia have autonomy and care for their own health. These messages created awareness that even the act of visiting neighbors can be risky, and offered easy to create solutions that elders and households could adopt.

Yey Nang and Yey Phal, two imagined characters, delivered messages nationally, via radio and social media, about key preventive behaviors to practice when inviting each other to visit.

“When I hear Yey Nang and Yey Phal informing each other in this way, I want to do like them and follow their example.”

– Focus group, Kampong Chhnang, Aug 2020

In two communes in Battambang province, village chiefs were activated to deliver targeted and personalized messages to their villagers. We invited village chiefs to set up their houses with a handwashing station at the entrance and stickers to highlight the safe distance when seated. This enabled them to serve as trusted bright spots in their community. To incentivise replication of the intervention by community households, a playful competition was established to motivate neighbouring villages to compete for replication reach and quality. 

Participants share their preferences to which concept and message touches them emotionally.

Boy Khean, Village Chief of Sthapor 1, was committed to win the village competition for his commune. Boy Khean set up his own home and also trained two assistants to help spread instruction to his community to set up their own stations. Boy Khean even designed and tested a wooden stand for his own handwashing station to recommend to households. Boy Khean won the first prize for his commune among 14 other village chiefs, with 23 households in his village setting up homemade stations within the two-week campaign.

This campaign leveraged the communities’ desire to protect themselves and creativity in designing their own solutions for doing so.

Village chiefs receive recognition for inspiring their communities during COVID-19.