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Football Fever, Not Childhood Fever!

A simple idea which combines playing and learning to promote hygiene and health in young children! Children love to play ball! Can messages on soccer balls be an effective approach to teach and train children to wash their hands? Children who learn about handwashing in relation to a game they enjoy and characters they love can be encouraged to follow these messages leading to behaviour change. These children can share this message with family at home.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

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                                    FOOTBALL FEVER
                Playing, Learning, Promoting Hygiene and Health

Kids love to play ball, particularly football.  Thinking about point of contact with kids using messages on a ball itself came to mind.  Can a football become a vehicle for messaging about the importance of hand washing?  Can kids then transfer these messages to their families at home?  What form would these messages take?  "Who" will be the messenger?

There are several public health campaigns that have captured the attention of children.  Children repeat what they have heard, on media, at school, in public spaces, at home, opening a door to communication about the message.   Anti smoking campaigns are one example.  Children react when seeing adults smoking by asking,  "Mom, why are you smoking?  It's bad for you.  You need to quit."

Can messaging on the surface of a football become a campaign tool in the fight against diarrheal illness in young children?  What visuals can we employ that will capture the imagination of young children, engaging them to look, learn and remember to wash their hands?  What images can we link  together that will encourage and nudge children along to behavior change?

This idea was born at a Brooklyn OpenIDEO Meet Up.  Brainstorming on ideas for Zero to Five I threw the idea out and folk jumped in with suggestions and observations.  One woman described a recent experience she had while visiting a daughter who is working with Syrian refugees in Turkey.  A donation of soccer balls had recently been received for children living in the refugee camp where she is based.   These soccer balls had maps on their surfaces. The kids loved them.  They were mesmerized and sat with folk asking them to point out where they were from.  One person in the Meet Up group threw out the idea of using infographics to communicate visually and I shared the idea to use Superheroes to bring the message to life.  One fellow reported the number of spaces on the surface of a football implying that many visual messages could be placed on one ball.  In five minutes time many ideas were shared.   I am sharing it with the community here to "play" with it, get feedback, build the idea, pivot it etc. etc.   

1) Simple infographics illustrating handwashing related to cooking, eating habits and toileting.
2) Using superheroes to illustrate handwashing habits.
3) Using comicbook characters based on beloved football heroes to illustrate handwashing.
4) Creating short narratives which incorporate handwashing habits, using superheroes.  Creating a series of narratives so that children are excited to look at different footballs overtime, keeping them interested and engaged which can serve to reinforce the message.
5)  Expanding on this idea - A friend who is the director of a school in rural Haiti suggested stickers representing footballers that are popular there placed on water containers used for hand washing as a way to reinforce the message.  She also suggested round soap with a pressed surface made to resemble a soccer ball which can be kept at a water 
station, hanging on a twine rope.

My Hero Academy  Educational Campaign Using Comic Book Characters to Promote Handwashing Behaviour in Young Children, sponsored by Lifebouy.

Who will benefit from this idea and where are they located?

This object is for all kids who like to play with balls, from one year olds who roll on top of them, to school age kids who "play football." Each can influence the other. A one year old can point to images and their siblings or parents can verbalize what they are seeing, as the young child learns language and concepts. All involved will learn something. Older children will learn from "reading" the images themselves. Children who are at risk from childhood diarrheal illness secondary to poor hygiene will benefit from this idea as they change their behaviors over time. By extension parents can benefit from this idea as children urge their parents to wash their hands as well, or question them why they are not. These behaviors once adopted will benefit families and communities. Children who love to play ball will engage with this idea. They might live in any of the countries we are targeting. They will live in urban communities and rural villages.

How could you test this idea in a quick and low-cost way right now?

1) Buy some inexpensive balls, soccer balls, and draw/paint on them. Perhaps use stencils to spray paint them quickly. You can also use inflatable balls that look like soccer balls, or light weight plastic balls that can be converted by drawing on the surface to look like soccer balls. Very small children will not know the difference - all balls are fun! 2) Take the balls to a local park or field and offer them to children/families to play with. 3) Observe the children. Do they want to look at it? Do they point to the symbols or characters? Are they engaged with the ball, "studying" it? Do they ask questions? Do they show it to others? Do they start to play with it as usual? Do they ignore the pictures and only use it as a regular soccer ball? Do they talk about it with other children? Do they repeat what they see on it to their parents or siblings? Do they want to keep the ball as their own?

What kind of help would you need to make your idea real?

This idea needs a partner who can test it in one of the countries we are focusing on in this challenge. // It needs feedback from the OpenIDEO community on what images would be appropriate in different communities. What images are culturally relevant? // Advise from community members living or working in these communities, on the characters kids know and love, and perhaps also football heroes that kids respond to would be great! // Design support would be amazing! // Suggestions about approach, such as simple storytelling vs. a more direct use of info graphics would be most welcome!

Is this an idea that you or your organization would like to take forward?

  • Yes. I am looking for partners that might be interested in taking this idea forward in their communities.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Chris Payne

Great work team. I think by identifying to interlink your proposal to football is a great idea because it is such a globally known and appreciated sport. Plus it allows for playing and learning at the same time which is great as it stimulates the children which is great. Also these kids who play football will have idols in the game so i think it would be great to have these players to be apart of the illustrations which inform the children of the messages you are trying to promote

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Chris. Thanks for the comment!

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