Webinar Series: Strengthening Safety Nets and Health Care during the Covid-19 Pandemic

6 Zoom Webinars


People in a queue for a vaccination drive.
Photo: Manoej Paateel | Shutterstock.com

What role do cash transfers and social protection schemes play in mitigating the effects of the Covid-19 crisis? What additional implementation and design features should policy-makers consider in developing their cash transfer and other social protection programs to ensure ease of access for vulnerable populations to these schemes? What are some strategies to strengthen health systems in response to the pandemic to ensure continuity of health services? 

Join us for a webinar series, hosted by J-PAL South Asia and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, from late July to August presenting research funded by the Cash Transfers for Child Health (CaTCH) Initiative at J-PAL South Asia that speaks to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 crisis.

Over the last several decades, government agencies in India at both the national and state level have introduced a number of cash transfer programs that aim to improve educational, maternal and child health, girl child, or other social welfare outcomes. However, there is limited credible evidence on the impact of these programs on outcomes. CaTCH aims to rigorously study these programs and understand their impacts on child health. The upcoming series of webinars is designed to share answers to the questions that CaTCH-funded research has investigated, and provide evidence-based insights to decision-makers on how to strengthen safety nets and healthcare to protect the poor during the Covid-19 crisis.

Past Webinars

Protecting the Poor from Covid-19 Shock

How should social protection systems be redesigned to support new challenges in the next 12-24 months? Researchers Rema Hanna and Ben Olken reflected on evidence from their ongoing research in Indonesia on community targeting of social protection programs, and Asha Krishnan discussed ways to establish last mile coverage.

  • Moderator: Suneeta Krishnan, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

  • Speakers: Rema Hanna, Jeffrey Cheah Professor of South-East Asia Studies, Harvard Kennedy School; Benjamin Olken, Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Director, J-PAL; Asha Krishnan, Haqdarshak Empowerment Solutions

  • View the webinar recording here >>

Inclusive Growth Dividend: An Income Transfer Approach to Social Protection

How should we compare cash transfers to existing social protection measures like the Public Distribution System and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in India? In this webinar, Karthik Muralidharan noted that evidence favors the idea of universal income transfers, and discussed a range of questions ranging from targeting and universalization to benefits of cash transfers. Ashok Meena discussed the Government of Odisha's ongoing work on social protection during COVID-19.

  • Moderator: Shagun Sabarwal, Director of Policy, Training, and Communications, J-PAL South Asia

  • Speakers: Karthik Muralidharan, Tata Chancellor's Professor of Economics, University of California, San Diego, and Co-Chair, J-PAL Education Sector; Ashok Meena, Principal Secretary (Finance), Government of Odisha

  • Date: Thursday, August 6, 2020; 7:00 PM IST

  • View the webinar recording here >>

Improving Health Service Delivery and Utilization

In this webinar speakers discussed the specific implementation considerations that are relevant to maternal and child health cash transfers and spoke about the role of community health workers in achieving health goals. Saachi Bhalla reflected on findings from an evidence review of cash transfers, while Manoj Mohanan presented results of a micro-evaluation with the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana scheme in Madhya Pradesh. Tom Newton-Lewis discussed the role supportive supervision could play in empowering community health workers.

  • Moderator: Priya Nanda, Senior Programme Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

  • Speakers: Manoj Mohanan, Associate Professor of Public Policy, Duke University; Tom Newton-Lewis, Principal Investigator, Oxford Policy Management; Saachi Bhalla, Programme Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

  • Date: Thursday, August 13, 2020; 5:30 PM IST

  • View the webinar recording here >>

The Effects of India’s Covid-19 Lockdown on Agricultural Households 

Seema Jayachandran will present descriptive data related to covid-19 that was collected as part of an ongoing evaluation in Punjab that will assess the effectiveness of conditional cash transfers in reducing crop burning and, thereby, improving air quality and child health. Alongside this evaluation, the team has recently been collecting data through phone surveys on how the covid-19 lockdown has impacted agricultural households. This includes questions related to: production, output marketing, price expectations, food security, and other coping strategies. She will be joined by Namrata Kala, who has been doing similar work on the effects of the covid-19 lockdown on agricultural households in Bihar, including effects on migration and income. 

  • Moderator: Shagun Sabarwal, Director of Policy, Training, and Communications, J-PAL South Asia

  • Speakers: Seema Jayachandran, Professor of Economics, Northwestern University and Co-Chair, Cash Transfers for Child Health Initiative; Namrata Kala, Assistant Professor, Applied Economics, MIT Sloan School of Management

  • Date: Wednesday, August 19, 2020; 7:00 PM IST

  • Video recording for this webinar is not available.

The Effects of India’s Covid-19 Lockdown on Non-Covid Health Care-seeking, Morbidity, and Mortality

On March 24th, 2020, India imposed one of the most severe nationwide lockdowns in the world to control the spread of COVID-19. This panel presents research on the effects of the lockdown on critical chronic care and routine child care. The researchers use phone surveys conducted between June and August 2020 to document the effects of the lockdown on access to and utilization of health services, as well as health outcomes. The study finds evidence of substantial disruptions to care due to the lockdown, with only partial recovery in the following months and large negative impacts on morbidity and mortality. The results highlight the unintended consequences of the lockdown on critical and life-saving non-COVID health services that must be taken into account in the implementation of future policy efforts to control the spread of this and future pandemics.

  • Moderator: Stefan Nachuk, Deputy Director - Health Systems Design, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

  • Speakers: Pascaline Dupas, Professor of Economics, Stanford University and Co-Chair, Cash Transfers for Child Health Initiative; Radhika Jain, Asia Health Policy Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Stanford University

  • Date: Wednesday, August 26, 2020; 8:00 PM IST

  • View the webinar recording here >>

Designing Inclusive Government Social Protection Programmes

In this webinar, J-PAL affiliated researcher Simone Schaner will discuss her work on the effect of increasing women’s financial control over their wages (through a direct deposit to their bank accounts) on labor supply and gender norms in Madhya Pradesh. Additionally, she will also discuss a recently launched study that builds on a major initiative by the Government of Chhattisgarh, where over 2 million smartphones were distributed to rural Chhattisgarhi women. The study is testing whether a gender-targeted phone-based information service can increase knowledge and take-up of the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY). She will be joined by Madhumitha Hebbar of Oxford Policy Management, who will discuss their work on Social Protection and the use of direct benefit transfers (DBT) in strengthening social service delivery. OPM has been working on assessing DBT readiness in states such Odisha and Bihar, and have identified potential bottlenecks and suggested improvements for last-mile delivery to realize the full potential of these schemes.

  • Moderator: Priya Nanda, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

  • Speakers: Simon Schaner, University of Southern California; Madhumitha Hebbar, Oxford Policy Management

  • Date: October 13, 2020; 7:30 PM IST

  • View the webinar recording here >>