Reminding people to continue to protect themselves and others from spreading COVID-19.

UNDP Egypt’s Innovation Lab is working to encourage positive behavior change during the pandemic to reduce and mitigate the risks of COVID-19.

The emerging pandemic of the novel coronavirus has made it very clear that if we don’t change the way we do things, we will exacerbate the effects. With the spread of misinformation, this will propagate confusion, potentially undermining containment efforts. Credible and trustworthy sources is needed more than ever, particularly official sources. Of course, there are some unofficial sources, such as messages being circulated on social media, WhatsApp, and other communication channels, being reported both in Egypt and from other countries. News travels exceptionally fast these days; one piece of misinformation can domino its way into the emails and phones of millions in just a few seconds. The dramatic way that the outbreak is being reported, focusing on fatalities, city-wide lockdowns in China, severe increases in infection and death rates in Italy, results in a false overrepresentation in our minds. For anxious people, this leads to a feeling of imprisonment, and overreaching, which could lead to thousands rushing to hospitals simply for sneezing.

On the flipside, the concern that people will underreact because the panic driven by fear, leads to a failure in positive behavioral change, resulting in the opposite; an increase in spread of infection due to loss of trust in the information being shared.

Globally, a pervasive challenge for governments and health-care providers is to encourage people to adopt preventative outbreak behavioral measures and manage short term and high impact behavioral changes in relation to COVID-19. While traditional channels of communication such as face-to-face consultations and media can raise awareness and impart knowledge, this does not always get translated into action. It has been argued that such methods are predicated on a flawed implicit assumption that ‘understanding’ inevitably leads to behavior change [1].

To avoid the latter phenomenon, UNDP Egypt Innovation Lab is initiating a behavioral insights communications campaign with telecom operators across the nation to provide targeted messages addressing several behavioral biases that would nudge citizens to practice 4 positive behaviors:

1.     Remaining home

2.     Practicing social distancing

3.     Washing hands and using gloves/masks when in public

4.     Stopping the spread of fake news

It is important to note the timeliness of this intervention, the idea is to nudge positive behavioral change that would result in voluntary lockdown rather than a forced government lockdown (if we can). This will especially be effective given the slow, re-opening of malls, government offices, and businesses as it will remind people to continue to protect themselves and others from spreading COVID-19 as they return to their new ‘normal’.

 

For information, please contact Farida Matta, Innovation Lab Coordinator on farida.matta@undp.org

 

 

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