Abhijit Banerjee, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) co-founder, Nobel laureate and award-winning economist, has used public messaging to double the reporting of COVID-19 symptoms in West Bengal.

In a video message recorded in early May, Banerjee exhorted millions of people living in India’s villages to take precautions to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Prof Banerjee, who is a respected public figure in his native West Bengal state, recorded eight such 2.5 minute-long public health video messages, in the Bengali language from his Massachusetts home. More than two-thirds of West Bengal’s 91 million people live in villages. Using the services of a major telecoms provider, he and a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyHarvard University and Stanford University, sent text messages linked to the videos to 25 million people in the state.

Dr Banerjee’s widely disseminated video messages helped doubled the reporting of health symptoms to community health workers for fever and respiratory diseases, decreased travel beyond one’s village, increased hand washing and wearing of masks.

Read more here.