Using Social Media to Spread Public Health Messages for COVID19
Governments around the world are developing and implementing policies that slow the spread of COVID-19. One such policy is rapidly providing health-related information to people in order to promote healthy behaviors. Ex-ante, it is unclear which messages will be effective in swaying beliefs and changing behavior given the unprecedented nature of this disease threat. In partnership with the government of West Bengal, this project tests the effect of providing health-related information on health-preserving behavior, such as social distancing and hygiene practices. The study is rapidly testing several different kinds of health messages recorded by celebrities and feeding the results to the government in near real-time. The most effective broadcast strategies will be adopted to rapidly deploy a large-scale messaging campaign targeted at poor and rural communities. Given the ethics and urgency, the proposed project will also build an epidemiological model to optimally target over a thousand villages and use ethically adaptive experimentation, which aims to minimize the exposure of participants to less effective interventions. The project’s data collection methods and ethically adaptive experimentation techniques will allow the team to share actionable information to the government in real time and direct resources to the most effective messaging campaigns. This project complements a similar ongoing study that the research team is conducting in partnership with the government of Haryana.