Clowning to communicate? It works!

Clowning as a communication strategy in sexual health communication: a partial, informal, playful but realistic assessment of the regional impact of the Proyecto Payaso South South Exchange programme.

Theatre is powerful. Full stop. Nothing else has the power to mirror reality and life and to make us see ourselves, our weaknesses, strengths, stupidity, vulnerabilities. It stands to reason, therefore, that if one wants to change behaviour, theatre or ‘drama’ is arguably the best method to do it. It was this belief that led me to Proyecto Payaso. Looking at their website on the internet, I was immediately drawn to the project, despite my initial desire to go to South America and not Central.

One of the interesting aspects of the project was its ‘South South’ exchange programme, and what seemed to me to be its defiance of traditional the North-South relationship. That is, dependence on the theories, advise and experience of the North to tackle the issues of the South. I was an instant convert, myself a native of the ‘South’ (Jamaican). I felt that there was so much beauty in the natural culture of the South and thought it sad that we did not share our experiences in more meaningful ways. For the first time I actually felt special that an organization wanted my knowledge and experience instead of that of my Northern counterpart.

Proyecto Payaso offers a model of sexual health communication to the region that is participatory, target driven and non traditional; and this is exactly why it works. The project employs local youth but they are not just blindly carrying out the mandate of the organization; they actually have a stake in it right up to the executive level. Meetings, training and evaluation activities are all designed to involve the clowns in the development of the project. I participated in the project at all levels as well, sharing experiences and envisioning how this kind of project would work in my own context.

One of the distinctive features of Proyecto Payaso, for me, was the fact that the ‘obras’ or plays were specifically adapted to specific target audiences, even within Guatemala. The play done in the female prison was different from those done at schools or with indigenous women or in the various regions. Targeting audiences specifically is an extremely important part of planning any campaign for behaviour change. The fact that this is the case shows the evidence based backbone of the project (no clowning around!).

One of the things I grappled with the most during my time at the project (especially during ‘clown training’) was how the project managed to use clowning as a method of tackling a serious issue (HIV). The clown, I realized, helped to introduce issues that were not easily discussed in this population, and was a more accepted figure as it was not seen as threatening.

The fact that similar models to the project have been created regionally because of the exchange programme in other Central and South American countries is a testament to the success of the programme. The exchange programme can have an impact on the individual, in the sharing of ideas and in the influence of ideology.

Repost from the previous blog of Soroya Julian (originally published on July 27, 2011)

CHC Interview: Dr. Ellen Campbell Grizzle, Dean, College of Health Sciences, UTech

CHC Interview: Dr. Ellen Campbell Grizzle, Dean, College of Health Sciences, University of Technology, Jamaica


I met with Dr. Campbell Grizzle in December 2012 regarding some research I was doing in tobacco control. We got around to talking about public health communications in Jamaica.

Is health communications considered low priority for decision makers?

I went into a system where it was so, but then people started to say, “Wow”, when you actually designed and came up with the solutions that were measurable and could work. Sometimes it is for us to get in there, do the work and show that it works and be articulate about explaining what we do.

We [Jamaica] have a strength in that we have a whole cadre of graduate level trained behaviour change communications specialists. But we are not using them. Instead they are working in public relations. It’s sad because to me they could be making a big difference out there.

All you need is a couple of these people in a room to try to help to address issues like tobacco. Often what happens is I sit in a room and there is a doctor trying to speak about behaviour change. They know a few theories, but that is as far as it goes. When its time to design and execute a campaign they cannot tell you what to do. But I am a very optimistic person and I believe in being creative to overcome even these challenges.

Dr. Campbell Grizzle studied Media and Communications (Ba.) and Communications for Social and Behaviour Change (PhD) at the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communications (CARIMAC), University of the West Indies (UWI).

Free Online Course: Using New Media Strategically in response to HIV

Free Online Course

Using New Media Strategically in response to HIV


John Snow, Inc. and JSI Research & Training Institute – JSI has developed a self-directed, on-demand, online course that introduces social media tools for HIV prevention andhow to develop, monitor, and evaluate a social media strategy.

The course is intended to introduce the most common social media tools and ways that they can be used in response to HIV prevention. The online course also providesguidance on how to develop a social media strategy and ways to monitor and evaluate social media activities.

The course has been created as part of a JSI capacity building assistance project that helps community-based organizations improve the delivery and effectiveness of HIVprevention services for high risk and/or racial/ethnic minority populations.


Don’t forget to relax


A few months ago, I found this poster on the website that reminded me to relax. This is one of the notes I keep within sight at all times. This is important because I have a habit of being high strong, and my blood pressure has a habit of being high.

I found out I had elevated blood pressure while still a teenage. Right after migrating to the United States, one of my first medical acts was to go to a clinic at the same time every day for five straight days to check my blood pressure. The doctors were convinced I had high blood pressure. For the record, I don’t. From that time onwards, I would usually spit out my blood pressure reading even before the machine kicked out it’s numbers.  However, during the past few years, my blood pressure has been slowly going down due to lifestyle changes and I guess my attempts at relaxation. I’m still amazed when I see a low numbers.

As I start my doctorate and during this entire stage in life. I’ll have to remember to relax. It’ll be ok. And, my blood pressure will continue to thank me.

Like the message “keep calm and keep walking”, this is one of the simple mantras that can aid in better health. Sometimes, it’s the simplest communication messages that have the biggest impact (on our health).

Image source:

Participate online in the 2012 National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media

New for 2012:

Participate online in the 2012 National Conference on 
Health Communication, Marketing, and Media


August 7 – 9, 2012


From the comfort of your desk through our

Virtual Conference Pilot

In an effort to expand the conference’s reach, we are excited to announce a limited virtual pilot of some of the sessions scheduled for the 2012 Conference.

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to experience the 2012 National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media virtually!

All Plenary sessions and a limited number of Special Sessions and Breakout sessions will be streamed live!

To learn more or to register, go to