Who would have guessed twenty years ago that virtually every community in the world would be able to access unlimited information from the palm of their hands? Fully half the world population lacks access to essential health services, so the internet revolution brings significant health opportunities. However, health education, particularly sexual and reproductive health (SRH) education, is often too little, too late, and too dated to be relevant to the people who need it most. Many people – parents and teachers included - are uninformed and are too embarrassed to ask questions about physical, mental, or sexual health that could save their lives.
While there are good sources of accurate medical information online, they are not generally of interest or may be too technical for younger or less educated audiences. As a result, many young people get their health education from pornography, TikTok, or other sources rife with misinformation. What if medically accurate, culturally appropriate health information and products were available for parents paired with “cool” messaging for younger adolescents to educate them? Enter BodyNEXT by The Body Agency Collective (TBAC), a non-profit committed to advancing gender health care equity and serving women and girls and marginalized populations around the world.
BodyNEXT is a ground-breaking new global body positivity and education campaign that will feature real people, medical professionals, and celebrities from around the globe tackling stigmatized aspects of mental, physical, and sexual health in authentic, inspiring ways. BodyNEXT harnesses technology to get people of all genders medically accurate information about their bodies (and others’ bodies!), plus the products and services they need, from before puberty through all stages of life in a hip and accessible way. In many countries, SRH education begins around age 15, which may be too late to impact behaviour in many cases. BodyNEXT is the crucial first step to identify what information, products and services people of different ages lack, which messages and messengers are most effective, and how government, educators, and the private sector can be engaged to meet these needs.
Here's how BodyNEXT works:
- Local gold standard NGOs that are already working in a community gather information about the level of SRH and other health knowledge among different age groups starting with very young adolescents (10+) and assess where the gaps and what the barriers are. They also identify services and products that may be needed to preserve and maintain health, and determine affordability for the populations in need.
- TBAC uses this information to work with its extensive network of private corporations and funders to secure commitments for donated and deeply discounted products to be assembled into age appropriate, appealing, trendy and culturally relevant kits for each BodyNEXT site and age group.
- TBAC will also work closely with the administering NGO(s) and our parent company, The Body Agency, to produce needed medically accurate information and to identify change-making messengers who can share messages and real stories widely about important aspects of health such as SRH, mental health, nutrition and even cancer care. Appropriate messengers such as local or international pop culture and sports celebrities, established influencers or thought leaders will be selected to reach different target audiences at various ages and ages, particularly those who are at high risk in each community. There will also be information and messengers targeted to parents who want the best for their children but may not have the most accurate information. “Cool” content could include games, quizzes, and rewards to be shared on social media platforms widely used by adolescents and parents, such as WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. TBAC partner and media giant BDG will provide additional amplification of this messaging through its media channels such as Scary Mommy and Fatherly that are widely read outside the research world.
- During and after each initial country pilot, the NGO on the ground administering BodyNEXT gathers data about the effectiveness of BodyNEXT in achieving the goals of improving health literacy, reducing stigma around SRH issues (particularly as they impact girls and women and those who identify as LGBTQIA), and ultimately health and wellness, particularly sexual and reproductive health.
- These data are analyzed by researchers at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University to help inform project improvements. This information is shared with the NGO(s) administering BodyNEXT locally, TBAC, governments, researchers, and shared in innovative ways on social media to complete the feedback loop.
- Local programs finesse their educational efforts and materials, products, kits and messaging to ensure continuous quality improvements, providing the evidence-based data needed to take BodyNEXT to scale in other locations through governments, private sector, or NGOs.
Through BodyNEXT, TBAC will bring together gold standard NGOs with deep ties to communities and in-depth understanding of peoples and culture with large global corporations that produce health and wellness products but lack the local wherewithal and distribution channels to fill the gap between needs and the availability of affordable products. With financial support from sponsors, TBAC designs its culturally appropriate signature “kits” to assist people in need wherever they are in their journey, from our before puberty through menopause, including options for those in special need such as Cancer Care or Dignity Kits for girls and women in crisis regions. These kits are packed with important and innovative, sustainable products such as menstrual cups, period panties, and the vulva puppet (Vuppet) – an educational tool to teach people of all ages about genders about female anatomy in a fun and shame-free way.
BodyNEXT was designed to create sustainable social enterprise by bringing together partners on the ground with corporations that can fill some of the gaps that currently exist. Products and services that are needed but not yet available or affordable will be identified by partners steeped in local culture and supplied by corporations, as TBAC works behind the scenes to get them integrated into the local health system. Ultimately, the goal is to make critical products and services available and affordable through clinics, pharmacies and community healthcare workers so donor funding is no longer required.
BodyNEXT will debut with its partners at the Women Deliver 2023 conference in Rwanda later this year with Board Members actress Debra Messing and retired NBA star Harvey Grant. It is currently being pilot tested by our partner, PSI India. PSI India’s hugely successful boots-on-the-ground approach with partners at all levels of the community will bring critical health and sexual wellness information, products and services to girls and boys aged 10 and up for the first time. Prior to BodyNEXT, these sometimes lifesaving resources were only available to adolescents over age 14.
With support from our partner’s events such as BodyNEXT Yoga by Equinox, TBAC is tailoring the campaign for adoption in other countries, including the United States and others in Africa, South America, and in Southeast Asia with TBAC technology partner HANAI.
BodyNEXT takes advantage of technology to spread accurate, culturally relevant health information in ways people will enjoy and seek out to counter the misinformation and gaps in health education that was designed for a different era. BodyNEXT is intended not just to change health behaviour, but to reduce and ultimately eliminate the shame and stigma associated to our bodies by normalizing judgment-free content from head to toe, starting at an early age. This empowers adolescents to advocate for their own bodies and health.
To read a letter from our Founder, Kate Roberts - click here.