20 Jul 2022

Immersive multimedia campaigns like MTV Shuga help young people listen to health messaging.

Research studies conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in South Africa and Tulane University in Nigeria confirm the model of “edutainment”, pioneered by us is helping to promote positive choices and is helping young viewers to prevent HIV and early pregnancy.

The evaluation conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) together with the Epicentre Health Research (South Africa), funded by Unitaid, found that MTV Shuga ‘Down South’ can help young people adopt new tools to prevent HIV, including self-testing and oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) , a drug taken by HIV-negative people before and after sex that reduces the risk of getting HIV.

Preliminary findings from South Africa show a strong and consistent link with HIV prevention behaviors: young people who engaged with the MTV Shuga series had twice the odds to know about HIV self-testing and PrEP, use an HIV self-test, and know their HIV status, compared to those who hadn’t watched the show.

A study in Nigeria by Tulane University, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which evaluated the MTV Shuga Naija series found similarly positive results, impacting attitudes towards gender-based violence, with victim-blaming decreasing significantly amongst both men and women.

The results further evidence that our model of edutainment works. For over a decade, MTV Shuga has proven adept at influencing young people’s behaviours through entertaining, immersive and challenging content, combined with relatable characters who audiences care deeply about. This is why we must continue investing in positive storytelling to improve public health.

The studies complement earlier findings on our behaviour change work, including a study conducted by the World Bank Development Impact Evaluation (DIME) which suggest that for every $1 invested in the MTV Shuga series, there is a return in health and welfare benefits in the order of $150.

Monde Twala, MTV SAF Board member and Senior Vice President, ViacomCBS Africa supports our work and notes that "it is inspiring to see the positive impact from the research back up the power of edutainment formats that reach into people’s hearts. The authentic and engaging content drives important behavioural change. With the pandemic placing intense strain on health services and people in lock down for months, we have seen how MTV Shuga content and engagement is often a lifeline for young people. These are powerful collaborative platforms and I’m excited to see where MTV Shuga innovates next.”

During the pandemic we showcased our adaptability with new content specifically focused on COVID-19 under the MTV Shuga “Alone Together” series. We have also implemented a similar campaign in India, MTV Nishedh, with a second season currently in pre-production; and we are looking to scale up work across sub-Saharan Africa, to include messaging on mental health, vaccine hesitancy, TB as well as sexual reproductive health messaging.

We look forward to seeing the impact our content will create in the future.

- Georgia Arnold

Executive Director

MTV Staying Alive Foundation