Objective: To study the effect of a community-based health education intervention on awareness and behaviour change of rural adolescent girls regarding their management of menstrual hygiene.

Materials and Methods: A participatory-action study was undertaken in Primary Health Centres in 23 villages in Anji, in the Wardha district of Maharashtra state. Study subjects were unmarried rural adolescent girls (12-19 years). We conducted a needs assessment for health messages with this target audience, using a triangulated research design of quantitative (survey) and qualitative (focus group discussions) methods. Program for Appropriate Technology for Health (PATH) guidelines were used to develop a pre-tested, handmade flip book containing needs-based key messages about the management of menstrual hygiene. The messages were delivered at monthly meetings of village-based groups of adolescent girls, called Kishori Panchayat. After 3 years, the effect of the messages was assessed using a combination of quantitative (survey) and qualitative (trend analysis) methods.

Results: After 3 years, significantly more adolescent girls (55%) were aware of menstruation before its initiation compared with baseline (35%). The practice of using ready-made pads increased significantly from 5% to 25% and reuse of cloth declined from 85% to 57%. The trend analysis showed that adolescent girls perceived a positive change in their behaviour and level of awareness.

Conclusion: The present community health education intervention strategy could bring significant changes in the awareness and behaviour of rural adolescent girls regarding management of their menstrual hygiene.