Development Media International

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Development Media International (DMI) is an non-governmental organization with both non-profit and for-profit arms that "use[s] scientific modelling combined with mass media campaigns in order to save the greatest number of lives in the most cost-effective way".[1]


DMI designs and implements television and radio campaigns in developing countries to promote healthy behaviours in the target audience. At present, their goal is to focus on reducing preventable child mortality [1] by promoting practices such as sleeping under treated bednets, giving children antibiotics when they have pneumonia, or giving people oral rehydration therapy.[2]

Issues of focus[edit]

DMI is currently focused on messaging that would address the leading causes of death in underdeveloped countries. Whereas the focus in developed countries is on promoting healthy behaviors such as avoidance of smoking or road traffic safety, communicable diseases are still the leading cause of death and morbidity in underdeveloped countries, and DMI's public messaging is aimed at encouraging people to take appropriate measures to prevent and check the spread of these diseases. Their main issues of focus as of now are:[3]

Countries of focus[edit]

DMI has launched a fundraising initiative called Media Million Lives,[4] which aims to launch nationwide media campaigns to reduce child and maternal mortality in ten high-burden African countries.[5] DMI has worked with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine to develop a mathematical model to predict the number of under-five lives that can be saved each year by running nationwide media campaigns in a number of African countries. The model predicts that these campaigns can reduce under-five mortality by as much as 23%. Some examples of estimates of the annual number of under-five lives saved include:[6]

Country Estimate of lives saved per year
Democratic Republic of the Congo 43200
Mali 16400
Mozambique 14600
Zambia 11200

In April 2014, DMI published midline results from a randomized controlled trial that it is conducting in Burkina Faso to prove that a radio campaign alone can reduce under-five mortality by 15.7%.[7] The evaluation of the RCT is being carried out by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.


DMI is a member of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.[8][9][10] Its funders include the Wellcome Trust,[11][12] the Planet Wheeler Foundation,[2][13] and the Mulago Foundation.[14][15] Previous funders include the United States Agency for International Development, the UK Department for International Development, and others.[16]

External reviews[edit]


In October 2012, charity evaluator GiveWell considered Development Media International as a potential organization to recommend, but decided against it for the time being, saying they hoped to return to a deeper evaluation later.[17]

On May 2, 2014, GiveWell published a blog post by Holden Karnofsky discussing DMI's recently released randomized controlled trial results from Burkina Faso. Karnofsky wrote: "If the results – and DMI’s cost-effectiveness calculations – held up, DMI could become a GiveWell top charity with substantially better estimated “cost per (equivalent) life saved” than our current top charities. [...] However, there are many questions we would need to look into before determining whether this is in fact the case. As such, we plan to investigate DMI thoroughly this year. There is some possibility that we will decide to recommend it at the end of this calendar year, and some possibility that we will instead choose to hold off on deciding whether to recommend it until next year, when the study’s endline results (which we expect to give a more reliable picture of its impact) are released."[18]

In October 2014, GiveWell published an "ongoing review" of Development Media International.[19]

On December 1, 2014, GiveWell announced its top charities and standout charities for the year. DMI was included among the standout charities, alongside the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition's Universal Salt Iodization Program, International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders, and Living Goods.[20]

In June 2015, GiveWell published an update to its review of DMI with corrections that increased the estimate of the cost per life saved from $5,236 to $7,264.[21]

Giving What We Can[edit]

Effective altruism advocacy organization Giving What We Can published a blog post about DMI by Emma Howard on May 27, 2014. This was the organization's first close look at DMI.[22] Previously, Giving What We Can had mentioned DMI's ongoing randomized controlled trial as an example of real-world national-scale randomization.[23]

Media reception[edit]

Will Snell of DMI appeared on a panel sponsored by The Guardian (a UK newspaper) on careers in international development.[24] Additionally, Roy Head, CEO of DMI, gave an interview to The Guardian.[25]

Daniel Avis of SOAS Radio interviewed Roy Head, CEO of DMI, on World Radio Day to discuss DMI's work.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "About us". Development Media International. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Planet Wheeler Foundation will commit $5.6m towards a scientific study to determine whether the power of mass media can be harnessed to save children's lives on an unprecedented scale". Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, United Nations. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  3. ^ "Issues that we focus on". Development Media International. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  4. ^ "Media Million Lives" (PDF). Development Media International for the World Health Organization. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  5. ^ "Why Africa". Development Media International. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  6. ^ "Impact". Media Million Lives. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  7. ^ "Burkina Faso RCT: midline results". Development Media International. April 2014. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  8. ^ "Development Media International (PMNCH constituency)". Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  9. ^ "World Health Organisation". Development Media International. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  10. ^ "The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH)". Development Media International. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  11. ^ "Unique project aims to measure impact of mass media on saving lives". Wellcome Trust. March 9, 2012. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  12. ^ "Wellcome Trust". Development Media International. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  13. ^ "Planet Wheeler Foundation". Development Media International. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  14. ^ "Scalable Solutions Portfolio". Mulago Foundation. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  15. ^ "Mulago Foundation". Development Media International. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  16. ^ "Our funders and partners". Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  17. ^ "Organizations using mass media for behavior change". GiveWell. October 2012. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  18. ^ Karnofsky, Holden (May 2, 2014). "A promising study re: Development Media International". GiveWell. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  19. ^ Telleen-Lawton, Timothy (October 9, 2014). "Our ongoing review of Development Media International". GiveWell. Retrieved October 11, 2014.
  20. ^ Hassenfeld, Elie (December 1, 2014). "Our updated top charities". GiveWell. Retrieved December 1, 2014.
  21. ^ "Corrections in our review of Development Media International". GiveWell. June 11, 2015. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  22. ^ Howard, Emma (May 27, 2014). "A first glance at Development Media International". Giving What We Can. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  23. ^ Marquardt, Clara (October 8, 2013). "'Real World Evaluations' – randomising on a national scale". Giving What We Can. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  24. ^ White, Alison (November 25, 2011). "Live Q&A: Thinking about going into international development? Considering a career in international development? Our experts will be taking your questions on everything from field experience to the roles available in the sector on Friday 2 December". The Guardian. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  25. ^ Bosrédon, Bertie (April 30, 2012). "Hear from the leader: Roy Head, Development Media International. Roy Head, chief executive of DMI, talks about working with international governments and the importance of innovation". The Guardian. Retrieved June 24, 2014.
  26. ^ Avis, Daniel (February 13, 2014). "World Radio Day 2014: Radio Interventions for Development and Health". SOAS Radio. Retrieved June 24, 2014.

External links[edit]