Influence of Opinion Leadership Communication Strategies on Exclusive Breastfeeding in Meru County, Kenya
Kalangi, Susan Kiambati
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This study investigated the influence of opinion leadership communication strategies on Exclusive Breastfeeding in Meru County, Kenya in order to improve the Exclusive Breastfeeding practices for better maternal and infant health. To enable an effective appraisal, the study was carried out in Igembe North Sub County of Meru County. The study was guided by four specific objectives as follows: to establish which opinion leaders are engaged in Exclusive Breastfeeding campaigns in Igembe North Sub County; to examine which opinion leadership communication tactics are used in influencing Exclusive Breastfeeding in Igembe North Sub County; to evaluate the communicative attributes of opinion leaders influencing Exclusive Breastfeeding practices in Igembe North Sub County and to determine what socio-cultural factors influence the effectiveness of opinion leadership communication strategies for Exclusive Breastfeeding practices in Igembe North Sub County. The Two Step Flow and the Uncertainty Reduction theories of communication were used to guide the collection and interpretation of data. The study adopted the mixed research design: qualitative and quantitative. Multistage sampling technique was used to select a quantitative sample of 384 breastfeeding respondents that was determined using Fischer and Krejcie and Morgan’s standard sample size calculation formulae. Ultimately, 372 respondents were surveyed, which was 96.8% response rate. Purposive sampling was used to select 32 respondents for the qualitative sample: 24 FGD participants and 8 Key Informants. A total of 31 qualitative data respondents were available for interviews and Focus Group Discussions. The survey method was used to collect quantitative data from four purposively sampled sub-locations of Igembe North Sub County. Interviews with all eight Key Informants were used to collect qualitative data. In addition, four focus group discussions were held comprising a total of 23 male and female participants. Quantitative data was analyzed using descriptive statistics (mainly percentages) with the aid of Statistical Package for Social Scientists (SPSS) and the results presented using tables. Qualitative data was analyzed using emerging themes and presented as narratives that were triangulated with the quantitative data. Study findings indicated that fellow mothers, mothers-in-law and healthcare workers were the most influential EBF opinion leaders. Secondly, the study concluded that Breastfeeding mothers in Igembe North Sub County rated EBF opinion leaders as more influential if they were highly knowledgeable on EBF, social and friendly, trustworthy and if they were their role models. Thirdly, although EBF opinion leaders in Igembe North Sub County had used the highly rated face-to-face communication methods and proper (local) language to communicate EBF information, the rate of EBF information adoption still remained low due to inapplicability of the message to the physical and social–cultural environments of the breastfeeding mothers. The study concluded that socio-cultural factors such as maternal occupation and workload, cultural infant feeding practices and pressure from relatives led to early EBF cessation. The study recommended that expert EBF opinion leaders should be supported to identify and empower many lay opinion leaders in order to ensure more frequent communication of positively influential EBF information at the community and house holdlevels.