Innovations for Poverty Action - India COVID-19 - The Life You Can Save Australia

Message from Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA)

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the lives of more than 3.2 million people globally 1. South Asia has become the epicenter of the pandemic. While face masks can slow the spread of the disease and save lives, getting people to consistently and properly wear masks has been a major public health challenge. However, a new model shown to normalize mask-wearing points to a scalable solution. IPA is quickly mobilizing to support government and non-government organizations in the adaptation and implementation of the approach.

What is the NORMalize mask-wearing approach?

In 2020, with in-country partners in Bangladesh and researchers from Yale and Stanford, we began rigorously testing various strategies to increase mask wearing at a large scale.

We found that community-level mask promotion tripled mask usage and was a cost-effective means of promoting public health. Read the full policy brief here and the academic paper here. We are calling the combination that worked N-O-R-M.

Is this a good investment?

Based on these results, in India, the Self-Employed Women's Organization (SEWA) is scaling up the approach to 1 million people, following outreach by researcher Mushfiq Mobarak, IPA, and the rest of the research team. IPA and the research team have been in contact with nine other interested coalitions in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan communicating the results and implications of the evidence we have. IPA and the research team have also been offering support and technical assistance, according to their needs, including on the procurement of high quality masks; analyzing monitoring data in real time (and in some cases even collecting monitoring data) so implementers can course correct and adapt the interventions to different contexts; and developing a version of the intervention better suited to urban areas (some of the mechanisms that operated in the rural context of the original research might change in an urban setting).

What's next?

Emerging scale-up coalitions are underway to reach 100 million people in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, with potential to save thousands of lives. However, funding and technical gaps exist and further support is needed to make these scale-ups a reality. Support is currently needed for the following:

  • Procuring high-quality masks
  • Monitoring support
  • Technical assistance for implementers
  • Urban adaptation of the model

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Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is a research and policy nonprofit that evaluates and promotes solutions to global poverty, generating research that has informed hundreds of successful programs that now impact millions of individuals worldwide.

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1 As of May 1, 2021. Source:

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