Responding to COVID-19 in India

by Suvita1 min read26th Apr 20202 comments

55

Hi everyone,

This (slightly unusual) post is intended to serve as a quick update on work being carried out by (Give-Well incubated) Charity Science Health and (Charity-Entrepreneurship-incubated) Suvita in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Background

  • CSH has specialised for several years in sending SMS reminders for routine immunisations. Suvita has specialised for 7 months on facilitating messaging by community immunisation ambassadors. Both approaches are evidence-based; this is a central tenet of our organisations.
  • Routine immunisation activities in India are currently paused due to the lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be vital to strengthen catch-up services as soon as it becomes feasible to restart them. See WHO recommendations here and UNICEF article here for more. We are closely following developments in this area.
  • In the meantime, we believe our combined resources and skills can be put to good use in India to help spread information encouraging behaviour change designed to reduce coronavirus transmission, in much the same way we usually work to spread information encouraging behaviour change to get routine immunisations.

With the above in mind, we have formed a COVID-19 Response Team to send evidence-based, rapidly iterating SMS messages (and hopefully recorded voice calls) to support at least one of our state government partners in India in their work to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. Find more information about our plans on this page. A brief summary:


Community outreach and mobilisation

  1. Reach millions of people (including 70,000 community health workers) in Maharashtra state on behalf of the state government.
  2. Discussions are ongoing with our state government partners in Bihar and elsewhere.

Actionable research

  1. Investigate existing knowledge, attitudes and behaviours; identify key messaging gaps
  2. Partner with a team of health economists led by Harvard Prof. Sebastian Bauhoff; use adaptive testing techniques to optimise the timing, content and frequency of messages
  3. Utilise the research to improve the effectiveness of our regular mass messaging for immunisation - valuable for ensuring universal uptake of a COVID-19 vaccine when available, as well as for strengthening India’s routine immunisation catch-up response

Why are we telling you this? Because you might be able to help us. There’s more information on our website, but broadly you might be able to:

  • Inform us - we are interested in existing data describing COVID-19-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviours in India
  • Share our findings - if you have contacts in state or central governments in India, or from other organisations sending COVID-related messaging in India, please get in touch
  • Fund us - we are currently spending our core organisational funding. Additional funding will increase our impact against COVID and ensure that we still exist to support routine immunisation catch-up activity when the time comes.

As you’ll have gathered, we are currently at full throttle working on time-pressured activities so please forgive us for the fact that this post has been thrown together at pace - we are aware that it leaves a number of open questions and are happy to speak in more detail to anyone who wants to make key decisions based on the information we share here. Please get in touch at covid@suvita.org if you think you can help.

55