Doctors' and Nurses' Social Media Ads Reduced Holiday Travel and Covid-19 Infections: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial

31 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2021 Last revised: 18 Apr 2022

See all articles by Emily Breza

Emily Breza

Harvard University

Fatima Cody Stanford

Harvard University - Harvard Medical School

Marcella Alsan

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Burak Alsan

Online Care Group

Abhijit V. Banerjee

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics

Arun G. Chandrasekhar

Stanford University - Department of Economics

Sarah Eichmeyer

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU)

Traci Glushko

Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital

Paul S. Goldsmith-Pinkham

Yale School of Management

Kelly Holland

Lynn Community Health Center

Emily Hoppe

Johns Hopkins School of Nursing

Mohit Karnani

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Sarah Liegl

St. Anthony North Family Medicine

Tristan Loisel

Paris School of Economics (PSE)

Lucy Ogbu-Nwobodo

Harvard University - Massachusetts General Hospital

Benjamin Olken

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics

Carlos Torres

Harvard University - Harvard Medical School

Pierre-Luc Vautrey

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Erica Warner

Harvard University - Massachusetts General Hospital

Susan Wootton

McGovern Medical School at UTHealth

Esther Duflo

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD)

Date Written: July 2021

Abstract

During the COVID-19 epidemic, many health professionals started using mass communication on social media to relay critical information and persuade individuals to adopt preventative health behaviors. Our group of clinicians and nurses developed and recorded short video messages to encourage viewers to stay home for the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays. We then conducted a two-stage clustered randomized controlled trial in 820 counties (covering 13States) in the United States of a large-scale Facebook ad campaign disseminating these messages. In the first level of randomization, we randomly divided the counties into two groups: high intensity and low intensity. In the second level, we randomly assigned zip codes to either treatment or control such that 75% of zip codes in high intensity counties received the treatment, while 25% of zip codes in low intensity counties received the treatment. In each treated zip code, we sent the ad to as many Facebook subscribers as possible (11,954,109 users received at least one ad at Thanksgiving and 23,302,290 users received at least one ad at Christmas). The first primary outcome was aggregate holiday travel, measured using mobile phone location data, available at the county level: we find that average distance travelled in high-intensity counties changed by -0.993 percentage points (95% CI -1.616, -0.371, p-value 0.002) the three days before each holiday. The second primary outcome was COVID-19 infection at the zip-code level: COVID-19 infections recorded in the two-week period starting five days post-holiday declined by 3.5 percent (adjusted 95% CI [-6.2 percent, -0.7 percent], p-value 0.013) in intervention zip codes compared to control zip codes.

Suggested Citation

Breza, Emily and Cody Stanford, Fatima and Alsan, Marcella and Alsan, Burak and Banerjee, Abhijit V. and Chandrasekhar, Arun G. and Eichmeyer, Sarah and Glushko, Traci and Goldsmith-Pinkham, Paul S. and Holland, Kelly and Hoppe, Emily and Karnani, Mohit and Liegl, Sarah and Loisel, Tristan and Ogbu-Nwobodo, Lucy and Olken, Benjamin and Torres, Carlos and Vautrey, Pierre-Luc and Warner, Erica and Wootton, Susan and Duflo, Esther, Doctors' and Nurses' Social Media Ads Reduced Holiday Travel and Covid-19 Infections: A Cluster Randomized Controlled Trial (July 2021). NBER Working Paper No. w29021, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3889127

Emily Breza (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Fatima Cody Stanford

Harvard University - Harvard Medical School

25 Shattuck St
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Marcella Alsan

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Burak Alsan

Online Care Group ( email )

75 State St.
Boston, MA 02109

Abhijit V. Banerjee

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

50 Memorial Drive
Room E52-252D
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-8855 (Phone)
617-253-6915 (Fax)

Arun G. Chandrasekhar

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States

Sarah Eichmeyer

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) ( email )

Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
Munich, DE Bavaria 80539
Germany

Traci Glushko

Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital ( email )

915 Highland Boulevard
Bozeman, MT 59715

Paul S. Goldsmith-Pinkham

Yale School of Management ( email )

NY
United States

HOME PAGE: http://paulgp.github.io

Kelly Holland

Lynn Community Health Center ( email )

269 Union St
Lynn, MA 01901

Emily Hoppe

Johns Hopkins School of Nursing ( email )

525 N. Wolfe St.
Baltimore, MD 21205

Mohit Karnani

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Sarah Liegl

St. Anthony North Family Medicine ( email )

2551 W 84th St
Westminster, CO 80031
United States

Tristan Loisel

Paris School of Economics (PSE) ( email )

48 Boulevard Jourdan
Paris, 75014 75014
France

Lucy Ogbu-Nwobodo

Harvard University - Massachusetts General Hospital ( email )

55 Fruit Street Boston
Boston, MA 02114
United States

Benjamin Olken

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

50 Memorial Drive
E52-391
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Carlos Torres

Harvard University - Harvard Medical School

25 Shattuck St
Boston, MA 02115
United States

Pierre-Luc Vautrey

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

Erica Warner

Harvard University - Massachusetts General Hospital

55 Fruit Street Boston
Boston, MA 02114
United States

Susan Wootton

McGovern Medical School at UTHealth ( email )

6431 Fannin
MSB 2.106
Houston, TX 77070

Esther Duflo

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

50 Memorial Drive
Room E52-544
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States
617-258-7013 (Phone)
617-253-6915 (Fax)

Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.povertyactionlab.org/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD) ( email )

Duke University
Durham, NC 90097
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
82
Abstract Views
306
rank
415,615
PlumX Metrics