DMI runs evidence-based radio, television and mobile campaigns to change behaviours and save lives in developing countries.


Development Media International (DMI) produces radio and television programming in developing countries that encourage people to adopt improved health practices, such as exclusive breastfeeding of infants and seeking treatment for symptoms associated with fatal diseases. The program aims to reduce mortality among children less than five years old. Conceptually, mass media interventions have the potential to be highly cost-effective, though GiveWell has not seen strong evidence that they are cost-effective in practice.

(Source: http://www.givewell.org/charities/DMI)

Founded in: 




Impact Area: 


Where they work:


Burkina Faso | DR Congo | Mozambique | Tanzania

What do they do? 

Development Media International (DMI) is focused on producing and broadcasting radio, TV and mobile campaigns to change behaviours and save lives in developing countries. 


Target behavioral changes

Child survival

DMI promotes health interventions that reduce child mortality, such as better nutrition and the treatment of diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia, to improve parents' knowledge and behaviors. 

Family planning

DMI shares information on contraception, which saves mothers' and children's lives by avoiding high-risk pregnancies, but is only used by 22% of women in Africa (compared to 75% in developed countries). 

Early childhood development 

Parents can develop the cognitive abilities of their children, simply by talking to them a great deal and in the right way. However, in many countries, few parents talk very much to their children before they themselves start talking, simply because it is not a social norm.


DMI's work


They design and run large-scale research studies to generate evidence that mass media campaigns can change behaviours in developing countries.


They design, run and evaluate media campaigns at scale, often in a single country but also in multiple countries through our 'DMI Reach' capability.  


They help other organisations to design, run and evaluate media campaigns by providing them with bespoke advisory and consulting services.


DMI's approach


  • Broadcast spots several times per day
  • Broadcast in local languages
  • Work with stations with large audiences

They apply a basic but frequently forgotten principle of commercial marketing: saturation (reach and frequency). Media campaigns are only effective if they reach the majority of the target audience, even in remote areas, and reach them often enough to drive home the key messages and calls to action. 



  • Use modelling to estimate impact 
  • Allocate airtime based on impact
  • Measure and attribute impact robustly

Media campaigns will only be seen as legitimate interventions if they can show impact. Until recently there was little evidence that media campaigns change behaviours. DMI has run the first randomised controlled trial to prove that a media campaign changed health behaviours in a developing country.



  • Feed formative research into creatives
  • Use drama to tackle barriers to change
  • Test all materials before and afterwards

DMI believes that they need to conduct research to understand the values, motivations and concerns of their target audience to change behaviors. Media campaigns should be simple, funny, and engaging, convincing people to change their behaviours, rather than simply providing information.

Recommended by

DMI is recommended by both GiveWell and The Life You Can Save. 


Proven track record

A few examples of DMI’s successful campaigns are

  • use of iron supplements among pregnant women increasing from 10 to 44 percent (in Cambodia),
  • trachoma incidence decreasing from 72 to 52 percent (in Ethiopia), and
  • breastfeeding rates among new mothers increasing from 77 to 91 percent (in Orissa, India).


Rigorous evaluations and transparency

DMI has demonstrated unusually strong self-analysis – particularly in supporting a randomized-controlled trial (RCT) on its program. They are using a model developed in conjunction with the London School of Hygiene, and a rigorous RCT funded by the Wellcome Trust and Planet Wheeler Foundation. DMI has also shared significant, detailed information about its program with GiveWell in their evaluation process.



Economies of scale mean that DMI can educate communities about multiple health issues in a single campaign for little extra cost. DMI’s campaigns are potentially cost-effective program – conceptually, mass media interventions have the potential to be highly cost-effective, though GiveWell states that they have not seen strong evidence that they are cost-effective in practice. The Life You Can Save estimated that it costs only $20 per disability-adjusted life year (DALY), or $600 per life saved*, making it one of the cheapest health interventions available.

*These are DMI's latest 2016 internal estimates, higher than previous public estimates, hence the inclusion before their official release of the numbers.