Report on a large scale evidence-based behavioral science embedded public health campaign to flatten the curve of COVID-19 in The Netherlands

Year 2020. As COVID-19 rapidly spreads around the globe with 1.4 million confirmed cases and 89.000 deaths worldwide, it has become the first pandemic in the New Media age. In the absence of a vaccine or effective treatment against COVID-19, improvement of behaviors on personal hygiene and social distancing are, so far, the only effective weapons to combat this pandemic. And this improvement of behaviors needs to happen fast and at large scale, since only then we can successfully flatten the curve.

Thankfully, in today’s world it is possible to drive this large scale improvement and to do this quickly. Entertainment and social media have a tremendous reach to the individual. Online communities create a shared sense of identity, and many revolve around highly trusted, influential figures who lie at the center of those communities.

In this project – the hygiene project – they make use of traditional entertainment media and social media, and use the latest insights from behavioral science to improve personal hygiene and social distancing, to decrease new infections and help flatten the curve of hospital admissions due to COVID-19 infections. 

The researchers have shown that using an evidence based large scale behavioral science intervention is feasible and is an effective way to both collect detailed behavioral data as well as drive mass behavioral change in crucial times like these. The response rate was impressive and the project can therefore be seen as one of the largest field experiments on behavioral science with the aim to improve behavior on personal hygiene in social distancing, in the context of the current COVID-19 crisis.

In addition, the survey allowed them to tailor made the campaign, helping them focus the message to just the gaps in people’s current behavior related to personal hygiene and social distancing.

And finally, the researchers have seen that with the reach and power of influencers they are able to take immediate action. Response rates to surveys and to interventions were high in a relatively short time.

The survey was disseminated already to Australia (Adelaide, SAHMRI), India (TiE, Pune) and the USA (Duke University, Durham, NC; Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, NY). Furthermore, a free link to the survey is made available.

A scientific paper is published on JAMA Network Open (pdf).
And you can also click on this link:
Association of a Public Health Campaign About Coronavirus Disease 2019 Promoted by News Media and a Social Influencer With Self-reported Personal Hygiene and Physical Distancing in the Netherlands

Fred Matser (founder)

Fred Foundation was founded by Fred Matser in 1996 to contribute to the development of a more functional society. From a vision of interconnectedness of life and circular thinking.

Read more about Fred