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Monday, 7 September 2020

The science of coronavirus art: Assessing India’s Covid-19 behavioral change campaigns

The novel coronavirus pandemic has gripped much of the world due to the strain it places on healthcare systems. Similarly, combatting the pandemic has placed a strain on regular human behavior. Successful pandemic response requires a massive societal-level behavior change to buy societies the time required for scientists to develop and test better treatments, vaccines, and technical tools to “flatten the curve” of new infections.

Rapid widespread testing for the disease and technological tools for contact tracing are critical components of a coherent response to Covid-19. But the first and arguably most critical line of defense runs through changing basic human behavior concerning interactions with each other in social and public settings. If this unprecedented exercise in behavioral change is to succeed, understanding the most effective strategies for communicating best practices for citizens to follow is essential.

The behavioral changes required to fight the pandemic are instructive because of how deceptively simple they appear at first blush. Citizens are not being asked to change their dietary habits or to exercise more vigorously or more regularly, let alone to give up addictive behaviors such as smoking or alcohol abuse. Instead, the message is simple: avoid all unnecessary social contact with non-family members, maintain physical distance when contact...

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