Webinar Series: Strengthening Safety Nets and Healthcare during the COVID-19 Pandemic

5 Zoom Webinars between July 29, 2020 and August 26, 2020


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.

In the series

1. Protecting the Poor from COVID-19 Shock

In this session the researchers will present evidence on the role government welfare and social protection schemes can play in mitigating the effects of the covid-19 lockdown, and what governments can do in terms of improving targeting and delivery of these schemes to protect the poor. They will be joined by Asha Krishnan from Haqdarshak. Haqdarshak, a social startup, has developed a mobile, multilingual technology platform with over 5000 welfare schemes and trains people to use this in order to help people in the community access welfare schemes. Haqdarshak has partnered with the researchers on an ongoing evaluation of this model in Rajasthan. Asha will be speaking about Haqdarshak's work in welfare schemes and its response during the covid-19 outbreak.

  • 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

  • Date: Wednesday, July 29, 2020, 5:00 PM IST

  • Sign up for this webinar here>>

2. Inclusive Growth Dividend: An Income Transfer Approach to Social Protection

In this session, Karthik Muralidharan will speak about the role of income transfers in India’s Anti-Poverty strategy. The session will focus on questions related to the design, coverage, and scope of unconditional cash transfers in addressing poverty and development. The presentation will draw on his work with several state governments in India on evaluations of cash transfer programs, including work funded by the CaTCH initiative in collaboration with the Jharkhand Nutrition Mission. 

  • 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

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3. Improving Health Service Delivery and Utilization

In an attempt to improve health and nutrition outcomes among both pregnant women and lactating mothers (PW&LM) and infant children, the Government of India (GoI) launched the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) in 2017 to provide a conditional cash transfer of Rs. 5,000 to first-time PW&LM. After extensive review of PMMVY in several districts in MP, the researchers identified several key blockages to program implementation. Based on these findings they are now conducting a micro-evaluation of a pilot intervention implemented by the Government of Madhya Pradesh to assess the impact of postcard reminders on beneficiary awareness of PMMVY and receipt of cash transfers. In this presentation the Manoj will speak about this ongoing work in Madhya Pradesh and also discuss some of his previous work with governments in India on improving healthcare provider performance. He will be joined by Tom Newton-Lewis from Oxford Policy Management on the panel. Tom will speak about OPM’s work in India on community health worker performance and the “Means, Motive, and Opportunity” framework developed by OPM to diagnose the constraints to performance. This presentation will explore some of the potential policy levers that may unlock performance, and discuss how COVID-19 is changing the environment that community health workers operate in.

  • 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 and Melinda Gates Foundation

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

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4. 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

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5. 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

  • Sign up for this webinar here>>

This page will be regularly updated with further details.