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Mass Messaging and Health Risk Reduction : Evidence from COVID-19 Text Messages in Tajikistan (English)

Can mass public health messages change behavior during a crisis? This paper assesses the impact of a COVID-19 focused text-messaging campaign launched in May 2020 with the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Tajikistan to encourage compliance with risk reduction measures. The initiative sent a series of informational messages to about 5.5 million mobile phone subscribers and reached at least one member of more than 90 percent of the country’s households. An individual fixed effects estimator is used to measure changes in reported behavior after a respondent lists text messages as a primary source of information about COVID-19, or alternatively when reporting an official text message in the past week. Listing text messaging as a primary source of information increased the number of reported behaviors by 0.15 units (p = 0.000) and receiving an official text message in the past week increased the number by 0.47 units (p = 0.000). These effects were driven by more positive responses for wearing masks, reducing visits with friends and relatives, reducing travel, practicing safer greetings (such as fewer handshakes), and safety-related changes at work. The results suggest that text messaging–based public health messaging was a cost-effective means of increasing awareness in a large and geographically dispersed audience during the COVID-19 pandemic and that the program led to an increase in self-reported risk reducing behaviors.


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    Seitz,William Hutchins

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    Policy Research Working Paper

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    Europe and Central Asia,

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    Mass Messaging and Health Risk Reduction : Evidence from COVID-19 Text Messages in Tajikistan

  • Keywords

    primary source; standard error; risk reducing; Poverty and Equity; fixed effect; social distance; risk reduction behaviors; public health messages; mobile phone subscriber; work pattern; food reserve; coronary heart disease; per capita income; social media; baseline survey; public administration review; Migration and Remittances; change in behavior; risk of infection; public health information; public health service; malaria treatment guidelines; public health crisis; Health Workers; rural area; independent variable; Public Services; vaccination campaign; small sample; health authorities; survey data; individual behavior; representative sample; time t; preventive behaviors; survey questions; income people; time trend; cluster correlation; positive relationship; survey results; informal settlement; household consumption; sample design; vaccine availability; phone number; message system; project finance; general population; confirmed case; mass communication; crisis situation; cluster approach; telecom provider; geographic spread; mass media; first stage; census tract; national survey; remote area; household data; primary contribution; selected cluster; mountainous region; random sample; Research Support; 0 hypothesis; information campaign; urban location; radio broadcast; household characteristic; cluster sampling; health literacy; open access; living space; behavioral indicator; regression equation; development policy; common denominator; high share; case management; feeding program; newspaper article; government initiative; positive value; reduction measure; internet connection; industry association; information sources; aids care



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Seitz,William Hutchins

Mass Messaging and Health Risk Reduction : Evidence from COVID-19 Text Messages in Tajikistan (English). Policy Research working paper,no. WPS 9755,COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Washington, D.C. : World Bank Group.