NEWS There are many methods rooted in behavioural science that we can employ to improve mask wearing.
- India in present is facing the Second wave of Covid-19. However, it is a month away from achieving herd immunity through vaccination.
- In the absence of Universal vaccination, behavioural change can be used as a tool to bring control of the spread of the epidemic.
BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE IS NEED OF THE HOUR
- Behaviour like lack of physical distancing, proper hand washing and wearing masks inconsistently or incorrectly or not wearing at all are reasons for daily new infections.
- For e.g. from July 2020 to March 2021, India saw a 5% drop in mask wearing. Instances of wearing masks inappropriately have increased too.
METHOD TO BRING THE BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE
The use of behavioural science methods can be used to improve mask wearing and other COVID-19 prevention measures. This method includes:
- This step includes sharing of basic information like mask effectiveness in COVID-19 transmission prevention, when and where to wear mask, types of mask which can be effective, information about double mask etc.
- Information should come from most trusted sources like scientists and health experts and it should be shared with everyone in a comprehensive and timely way.
- At the same time, people’s beliefs or misconceptions need to be countered with credible facts.
- Since everyone has the same information needs, communication to each group of people should be tailored accordingly instead of generic messages.
- For e.g those who are not wearing masks always should be told about its importance, on the other hand those who are wearing it occasionally should be conveyed information that risk can be everywhere.
- We need to highlight stories like sharing testimonials of how mask wearing is related to low infections of COVID-19 infections.
- It includes creating a positive social norm around mask wearing. People are more likely to practise a behaviour if they believe that everyone else is also doing it too.
- Advertisements, messages and visuals etc can be used to reinforce mask wearing.
- There is a need to enforce correct and consistent mask wearing.
- Many people do not follow proper masking behaviour because there is no consequence for their inaction.
- Instead of complete dependence on police, there is a need for collective responsibility to influence the people around us.
- An important point in behavioural change is compassionate leadership.
- Leaders should not resort to religion, politics and profit in dire situations like Covid and should consistently convey and enact positive behaviours like mask wearing and vaccinations.
- Media should be responsible while reporting.
- Media should not portray everything negative, as this panics the audience numbs it.
- As a result people indiscriminately start sharing information, misinformation and disinformation on social media.
- Instead the media needs to highlight uplifting and inspiring stories of prevention efforts, ideas and innovations to promote masking, distancing and vaccination.
- If we want to bring the pandemic to the end, we need to invest in a comprehensive, behavioural approach to address COVID-19 behaviour.
- But instead no expense is being spared in engaging the best scientific experts from around the world to address questions and explain the pandemic, the human behavioural aspect has only been addressed in an ad hoc manner.
- It is to be understood that understanding, predicting and shaping human behaviour is a science too. Indeed, it is the less expensive way of digging ourselves out of the hole we are currently in.