Health Knowledge and Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions During the Covid-19 Pandemic in Africa

48 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2021 Last revised: 20 Jul 2021

See all articles by Anne Fitzpatrick

Anne Fitzpatrick

University of Massachusetts Boston

Sabrin Beg

University of Delaware

Laura Derksen

University of Toronto

Anne Karing

Princeton University

Jason Kerwin

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Department of Applied Economics

Adrienne Lucas

University of Delaware - Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics

Natalia Ordaz Reynoso

The University of Minnesota

Munir Squires

University of British Columbia (UBC)

Date Written: January 2021

Abstract

Providing health information is a non-pharmaceutical intervention designed to reduce disease transmission and infection risk by encouraging behavior change. But does knowledge change behavior? We test whether coronavirus health knowledge promotes protective risk mitigation behaviors early in the COVID-19 pandemic across four African countries (Ghana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania). Despite reputations for weak health sectors and low average levels of education, health knowledge of the symptoms and transmission mechanisms was high in all countries in the two months after the virus entered the country. Higher knowledge is associated with increased protective measures that would likely lower disease risk with one exception–knowledge is inversely correlated with social distancing. Respondents largely adhered to mask mandates and lockdowns, but continued coming into contact with others at small, informal gatherings, gatherings not affected by mandates. Knowledge alone appears unlikely to reduce all risky activities, especially gatherings within other people's homes. Even early in the pandemic income loss or stress were commonly reported. Our results suggest that early and consistent government provision of health information, likely reduced the severity of the pandemic in Africa but was not a panacea.

Suggested Citation

Fitzpatrick, Anne and Beg, Sabrin and Derksen, Laura and Karing, Anne and Kerwin, Jason and Lucas, Adrienne and Ordaz Reynoso, Natalia and Squires, Munir, Health Knowledge and Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions During the Covid-19 Pandemic in Africa (January 2021). NBER Working Paper No. w28316, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3763844

Anne Fitzpatrick (Contact Author)

University of Massachusetts Boston ( email )

100 William T Morrissey Blvd
Boston, MA 02125
United States

Sabrin Beg

University of Delaware

Newark, DE 19711
United States

Laura Derksen

University of Toronto

Toronto, M5S 3G8
Canada

Anne Karing

Princeton University

Jason Kerwin

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Department of Applied Economics ( email )

MN
United States

Adrienne Lucas

University of Delaware - Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics ( email )

419 Purnell Hall
Newark, DE 19716
United States

Natalia Ordaz Reynoso

The University of Minnesota ( email )

MN
United States

Munir Squires

University of British Columbia (UBC) ( email )

2329 West Mall
Vancouver, British Columbia BC V6T 1Z4
Canada

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