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Messages on COVID-19 Prevention in India Increased Symptoms Reporting and Adherence to Preventive Behaviors Among 25 Million Recipients with Similar Effects on Non-recipient Members of Their Communities

Author

Listed:
  • Abhijit Banerjee
  • Marcella Alsan
  • Emily Breza
  • Arun G. Chandrasekhar
  • Abhijit Chowdhury
  • Esther Duflo
  • Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham
  • Benjamin A. Olken

Abstract

During health crises, like COVID-19, individuals are inundated with messages promoting health-preserving behavior. Does additional light-touch messaging by a credible individual change behavior? Do the features of the message matter? To answer this, we conducted a large-scale messaging campaign in West Bengal, India. Twenty-five million individuals were sent an SMS containing a 2.5-minute clip, delivered by West Bengal native and 2019 Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee. All messages encouraged reporting symptoms to the local public health worker. In addition, each message emphasizes one health-preserving behavior (distancing or hygiene) and one motivation for action (effects on everyone or just on self). Further, some messages addressed concerns about ostracism of the infected. Messages were randomized at the PIN code level. As control, three million individuals received a message pointing them to government information. The campaign (i) doubled the reporting of health symptoms to the community health workers (p = 0.001 for fever, p = 0.024 for respiratory symptoms); (ii) decreased travel beyond one’s village in the last two days by 20% (p = 0.026) (on a basis of 37% in control) and increased estimated hand-washing when returning home by 7% (p = 0.044) (67.5% in control); (iii) spilled over to behaviors not mentioned in the message – mask-wearing was never mentioned but increased 2% (p = 0.042), while distancing and hygiene both increased in the sample where they were not mentioned by similar amounts as where they were mentioned; (iv) spilled over onto nonrecipients within the same community, with effects similar to those for individuals who received the messages.

Suggested Citation

  • Abhijit Banerjee & Marcella Alsan & Emily Breza & Arun G. Chandrasekhar & Abhijit Chowdhury & Esther Duflo & Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham & Benjamin A. Olken, 2020. "Messages on COVID-19 Prevention in India Increased Symptoms Reporting and Adherence to Preventive Behaviors Among 25 Million Recipients with Similar Effects on Non-recipient Members of Their Communiti," NBER Working Papers 27496, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:27496
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    RePEc Biblio mentions

    As found on the RePEc Biblio, the curated bibliography for Economics:
    1. > Economics of Welfare > Health Economics > Economics of Pandemics > Specific pandemics > Covid-19 > Behavioral issues > Information

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    Cited by:

    1. Islam, Asad & Pakrashi, Debayan & Vlassopoulos, Michael & Wang, Liang Choon, 2021. "Stigma and misconceptions in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic: A field experiment in India," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 278(C).
    2. Leonardo Bursztyn & Aakaash Rao & Christopher Roth & David Yanagizawa-Drott, 2022. "Opinions as Facts," ECONtribute Discussion Papers Series 159, University of Bonn and University of Cologne, Germany.
    3. Delphine Boutin & Laurène Petifour & Haris Megzari, 2022. "Instability of preferences due to Covid-19 Crisis and emotions: a natural experiment from urban Burkina Faso," Working Papers hal-03623601, HAL.
    4. Arun G. Chandrasekhar & Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham & Matthew O. Jackson & Samuel Thau, 2021. "Interacting regional policies in containing a disease," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 118(19), pages 2021520118-, May.
    5. Abu Siddique & Tabassum Rahman & Debayan Pakrashi & Asad Islam & Firoz Ahmed, 2020. "Raising COVID-19 Awareness in Rural Communities: A Randomized Experiment in Bangladesh and India," Munich Papers in Political Economy 09, TUM School of Governance at the Technical University of Munich.
    6. Arvind Pandey & Aseem Prakash & Rajeev Agur & Ganesh Maruvada, 2021. "Determinants of COVID-19 pandemic in India: an exploratory study of Indian states and districts," Journal of Social and Economic Development, Springer;Institute for Social and Economic Change, vol. 23(2), pages 248-279, September.
    7. Khan, Adnan & Nasim, Sanval & Shaukat, Mahvish & Stegmann, Andreas, 2021. "Building trust in the state with information: Evidence from urban Punjab," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 202(C).
    8. Lowe, Matt & Nadhanael, G.V. & Roth, Benjamin N., 2021. "India’s food supply chain during the pandemic," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 105(C).
    9. Batista, Catia & Fafchamps, Marcel & Vicente, Pedro C., 2021. "Keep It Simple: A Field Experiment on Information Sharing among Strangers," IZA Discussion Papers 14780, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    10. Bahety, Girija & Bauhoff, Sebastian & Patel, Dev & Potter, James, 2021. "Texts don’t nudge: An adaptive trial to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 153(C).
    11. Sacchetto, Camilla & Daniel, Egas & Danquah, Michael & Telli, Henry, 2020. "Informality and Covid-19 in sub-Sarahan Africa," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 111562, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    12. Aassve,Arnstein & Capezzone,Tommaso & Cavalli,Nicolo’ & Conzo,Pierluigi & Peng,Chen, 2022. "Trust in the time of coronavirus: longitudinal evidence from the United States," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 202203, University of Turin.
    13. Rehse, Dominik & Tremöhlen, Felix, 2020. "Fostering participation in digital public health interventions: The case of digital contact tracing," ZEW Discussion Papers 20-076, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    14. Danae Arroyos-Calvera & Michalis Drouvelis & Johannes Lohse & Rebecca McDonald, 2020. "Improving compliance with COVID-19 guidance: a workplace field experiment," Discussion Papers 20-30, Department of Economics, University of Birmingham.
    15. Sonia Oreffice & Climent Quintana-Domeque, 2021. "COVID-19 Information, Demand and Willingness to Pay for Protective Gear in the UK," Studies in Microeconomics, , vol. 9(2), pages 180-195, December.
    16. Edward Miguel & Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, 2021. "The Economics of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Poor Countries," NBER Working Papers 29339, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Delphine BOUTIN & Laurène PETIFOUR & Haris MEGZARI, 2022. "Instability of preferences due to Covid-19 Crisis and emotions: a natural experiment from urban Burkina Faso," Bordeaux Economics Working Papers 2022-05, Bordeaux School of Economics (BSE).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development

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