COVID-19: our response
This page details Suvita's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adjustments to our existing work:
We have suspended all fieldwork until further notice, to protect both our staff and the communities in which we work
All staff (in both India and the UK) have been asked to work from home and to avoid unnecessary travel since 13th March
We are closely monitoring the routine immunisation situation in India to ensure that we are prepared to restart immunisation activities with renewed intensity once it is appropriate to do so, as recommended by UNICEF
Whilst our immunisation work is on pause, we have repurposed our skills and resources to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in India. Suvita has established a COVID-19 Response Team to carry out this work. Find out what we are doing below.
COVID-19 Response Team
Charity Science Health (a GiveWell-incubated and N/Core-incubated nonprofit specialising in mass SMS reminders to increase immunisation uptake in India)
Dr. Sebastian Bauhoff (Harvard Assistant Professor of Global Health and Economics) and his research team
Members of our team specialise in health economics, health-related behaviour change, community information dissemination, mass SMS messaging, phone-based surveys and data analysis. We have a database of our 3 lakh (300,000) programme users across seven states in India and working relationships with multiple state governments. This puts us in a unique position to support their work at this crucial time. We are now applying our skills and resources to the coronavirus pandemic, particularly to support Indian policymakers in encouraging behaviour change to reduce transmission of COVID-19.
Community outreach and mobilisation
1) Send mass SMS messages and voice calls to provide information and encourage individual behaviour change to reduce COVID-19 transmission, reduce the burden on health services and save lives
Shaped by behavioural science
Reach low-income communities who have limited access to information
We will reach:
Up to one crore (10 million) people on behalf of the Maharashtra State Government Information Education Communication Bureau (IECB)
Our 3 lakh (300,000) existing programme users
Populations requested by other state governments as the opportunity arises (partner discussions are ongoing)
2) Send SMS messages to 70,000 ASHAs (community health workers) on the frontlines of
the fight against COVID-19 on behalf of the Maharashtra IECB
Share government instructions rapidly and directly
Nudge ASHAs to disseminate government-approved messaging in their communities
3) Investigate existing knowledge, attitudes and behaviours of low-income communities in India related to COVID-19 (through phone surveys and in collaboration with other groups doing similar work). Identify key gaps which can be targeted by government messaging campaigns.
4) Use state of the art adaptive testing techniques to optimise the timing, content and frequency of SMS messages and voice calls to be maximally effective for encouraging COVID-19-related behaviour change in India. Share these actionable findings in real time with policymakers and other organisations doing similar work. This will assist other
decision-makers with optimising their own mass messaging campaigns.
5) Utilise the research to improve the effectiveness of our regular mass messaging for immunisation. This will be valuable for ensuring that a COVID-19 vaccine is taken up universally when one is developed, as well as for strengthening India’s routine immunisation catch-up response, which will be vital after coronavirus, as stated by
These plans will evolve over time depending on where we can most usefully support government efforts as the crisis develops. All activities will be conducted in accordance with the Government of India’s coronavirus guidance and restrictions.
How you can help
We are interested in existing data describing COVID-19-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviours in India. We are keeping up-to-date with IDinsight's work and have conducted our own pilot survey but are aware that other organisations may be conducting similar surveys in parallel.
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. We would be delighted to discuss how we can work together to have a greater impact. We are already in touch with the Noora Health and Busara.
We have committed our staff time over the coming months to the COVID-19 response. We are seeking funding to cover these costs plus a significant increase in our messaging expenses. The number of people we reach and our ability to iterate and optimise messages will be limited by the additional funds we can raise to send more messages and to evaluate their effectiveness. Donate here.
This section will be updated as we produce new resources through our work.
"Our response" summary brochure
(v3 17 April)
Literature review and draft messages