Promotion and provision of low-cost technologies that enable improved water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) practices are seen as viable solutions for reducing high rates of morbidity and mortality due to enteric illnesses in low-income countries. A number of theoretical models, explanatory frameworks, and decision-making models have emerged which attempt to guide behaviour change interventions related to WASH. The design and evaluation of such interventions would benefit from a synthesis of this body of theory informing WASH behaviour change and maintenance.
We completed a systematic review of existing models and frameworks through a search of related articles available in PubMed and in the grey literature. Information on the organization of behavioural determinants was extracted from the references that fulfilled the selection criteria and synthesized. Results from this synthesis were combined with other relevant literature, and from feedback through concurrent formative and pilot research conducted in the context of two cluster-randomized trials on the efficacy of WASH behaviour change interventions to inform the development of a framework to guide the development and evaluation of WASH interventions: the Integrated Behavioural Model for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (IBM-WASH).
We identified 15 WASH-specific theoretical models, behaviour change frameworks, or programmatic models, of which 9 addressed our review questions. Existing models under-represented the potential role of technology in influencing behavioural outcomes, focused on individual-level behavioural determinants, and had largely ignored the role of the physical and natural environment. IBM-WASH attempts to correct this by acknowledging three dimensions (Contextual Factors, Psychosocial Factors, and Technology Factors) that operate on five-levels (structural, community, household, individual, and habitual).
A number of WASH-specific models and frameworks exist, yet with some limitations. The IBM-WASH model aims to provide both a conceptual and practical tool for improving our understanding and evaluation of the multi-level multi-dimensional factors that influence water, sanitation, and hygiene practices in infrastructure-constrained settings. We outline future applications of our proposed model as well as future research priorities needed to advance our understanding of the sustained adoption of water, sanitation, and hygiene technologies and practices.