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How behavioral science is changing the COVID-19 response



So far the most effective tool against the global pandemic isn’t a vaccine or treatment — it’s social distancing, a behavioral measure rather than a medical one. The Surgo Foundation, an organization working on behavioral science across Asia and Africa, has pivoted its entire focus to the COVID-19 response.

In this interview with Devex President and Editor-in-Chief Raj Kumar, the foundation’s co-founder and Executive Director Sema Sgaier explains how behavioral science approaches are changing the COVID-19 response.


"Just telling everyone 'stay at home,' is not gonna work. But if you know that, for example, there are certain groups of families that are not staying at home because they really have to go out to get a living, then for them the intervention has to be very different," Sgaier said, on the nuances of doing social distancing well.


Kumar's work-from-home days are spent on the phone with global leaders on the front lines of this pandemic — trying to get a clear understanding of the issues so we can report on them. These are people who have important perspectives on the COVID-19 crisis, our community’s response, and future implications.