Adaptive Trial for COVID-19 Messaging Campaigns

Last registered on July 07, 2021

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Adaptive Trial for COVID-19 Messaging Campaigns
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0005780
Initial registration date
August 14, 2020
Last updated
July 07, 2021, 10:31 PM EDT

Locations

Region

Primary Investigator

Affiliation
Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

Status
Completed
Start date
2020-08-15
End date
2020-10-20
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Preventive behaviors such as hand washing, social distancing and respiratory hygiene are key to containing the spread of COVID-19, particularly in densely populated areas of developing countries with crowded living quarters and public spaces. We use phone-based messages to encourage these healthful behaviors at-scale in Bihar, India. Using the "exploration sampling" approach, we will identify the most effective combinations of content and timing/frequency in increasing the adoption of preventative measures.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Bauhoff, Sebastian. 2021. "Adaptive Trial for COVID-19 Messaging Campaigns." AEA RCT Registry. July 07. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.5780-2.0
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
Participants receive SMS messages to encourage them to adopt key health behaviors: hand washing, social distancing, respiratory hygiene and wearing a mask when outside. The messages vary in the behavior they target, the framing, and the timing when they are sent.
Intervention Start Date
2020-08-17
Intervention End Date
2020-10-20

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Prevalence rate for washing hands regularly with soap and water; social distancing
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Using the "exploration sampling" approach, we will identify the most effective combinations of framing and, timing/frequency in increasing the adoption of the various preventative behaviors. The initial allocation of the treatment is equal for all arms. We adjust the shares as we obtain information from continuous phone surveys.
Experimental Design Details
For each targeted behavior we have 5 frames (public vs private X gain vs loss, and a neutral frame). Each participant receives 4 messages, either twice in the morning for two days, or once in the morning / once in the evening for two days. Together we have 10 trial arms for each behavior.
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office on computer using Stata
Randomization Unit
Individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
NA
Sample size: planned number of observations
5600 completed phone interviews of households
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
The share of observations assigned to each treatment will vary depending on the effectiveness of different messaging interventions.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
IRB Approval Date
2020-04-22
IRB Approval Number
IRB20-0706
IRB Name
IFMR
IRB Approval Date
2020-07-06
IRB Approval Number
NA

Post-Trial

Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Intervention

Is the intervention completed?
Yes
Intervention Completion Date
October 20, 2020, 12:00 +00:00
Data Collection Complete
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
October 20, 2020, 12:00 +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
NA
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
No
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
3,563 individuals
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?
Yes

Program Files

Program Files
Yes
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Abstract
We conduct an adaptive randomized controlled trial to evaluate the impact of a SMS-based information campaign on the adoption of social distancing and handwashing in rural Bihar, India, six months into the COVID-19 pandemic. We test 10 arms that vary in delivery timing and message framing, changing content to highlight gains or losses for either one’s own family or community. We identify the optimal treatment separately for each targeted behavior by adaptively allocating shares across arms over 10 experimental rounds using exploration sampling (Kasy and Sautmann, 2021). Based on phone surveys with nearly 4,000 households and using several elicitation methods, we do not find evidence of impact on knowledge or adoption of preventive health behavior, and our confidence intervals cannot rule out positive effects as large as 5.5 percentage points, or 16 percent. Our results suggest that SMS-based information campaigns may have limited efficacy after the initial phase of a pandemic.
Citation
Bahety, Girija; Bauhoff, Sebastian; Patel, Dev; Potter, James (2021) "Texts Don’t Nudge: An Adaptive Trial to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 in India" CGD Working Paper 585

Reports & Other Materials

Description
Blog post
Citation
Bahety, Girija; Bauhoff, Sebastian; Patel, Dev; Potter, James (2021) "Can SMS-based Information Campaigns Help Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 in India?" CGD Blog