Video clip by Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee helped Bengal follow Covid-19 rules: Study
Video messages sent to millions of people in West Bengal by Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee spurred them into following social distancing rules, staying at home, and coming forward to report symptoms of Covid-19, according to a working paper by the economist and his colleagues that offers new insights into how public service messaging can be made effective.
The findings are part of a randomised control trial (RCT) about how varied messages spurred people to act. The messages were followed by surveys — of nearly 700 health workers and over 1,800 former and current village leaders — to determine if there was a difference in the reporting of symptoms or the movement of people.
In all, eight variants of Banerjee’s messages were sent, with each “emphasising one practice (social distancing or hand-washing), one rationale for action (cost to self or cost to everyone including self), and a social problem (either an explicit statement that ostracism of Covid-19 victims is unacceptable and should be reported to the authorities, or no mention of the issue)”, the working paper submitted to American non-profit National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) said.
The messages were randomised at the pincode-level to better assess the impact. “First, reporting of symptoms to the frontline health workers, critical to the tracking of the epidemic, doubled... Second, rates of not leaving the village, washing hands and wearing masks improved significantly in treatment communities. Critically, the effects are of similar magnitudes for behaviours targeted in the videos (not travelling out, washing hands) and those not even mentioned (mask use). Third, distancing (hygiene) went up in the sample where only hygiene (distancing) was mentioned by more or less the same amount as when distancing (hygiene) was explicitly mentioned,” the authors, led by Banerjee, said.
The results, the authors added, “show that even against a background of a high level of messaging, an additional message by a respected public figure can still have large direct and indirect effects.”
“Abhijit Banerjee is a person of international repute. The chief minister decided to send a message through him and it has worked really well. I am happy to hear this. Creating awareness is of utmost importance because even now I can see people in so many nations not taking proper measures to contain the pandemic,” said senior Trinamool Congress leader and minister of state for parliamentary affairs Tapas Roy.