The researchers say awareness campaigns motivated 45.42% of the participants to maintain physical distancing as well
Reiterating the public health experts’ opinion, a recent study in Bangladesh has revealed that a combination of effective campaigning and making the mask available can increase the usage of facemasks among the commoners.
The findings of the study, conducted last month, were revealed in a program on Wednesday. Researchers from different universities around the world as well as local and international NGOs took part in the study.
According to the research, a mixed approach ensuring availability of the mask and monitoring-based intervention in the society can triple the usage of masks.
Some 64,937 households in the intervention group and 64,183 households in the control group participated in the study.
The researchers firstly monitored the use of masks among people in Bangladesh in June, July and August last year. They found that the use of masks was not persistent or consistent. They also marked that only half of people in Bangladesh were wearing masks in May and a quarter in June.
First co-author of the research paper Yale University economist Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak said that taking an approach consisting of four interventions together had a substantial effect – increasing the mask usage from 13% to 42% in the control areas.
The effect was consistent over 10 weeks, and persisted during the two weeks of surveillance after the interventions ended, the study says.
The researchers also found that such visible activities had motivated the participants to maintain physical distancing and over 45.42% of the participants continued the practice.
The findings also showed that three of the four approaches produced a much smaller impact. Free distribution of masks direct to households, at mosques, and at markets; endorsements from imams and other community leaders; and the promotion of the mask program through videos and brochures have some impact.
But the fourth ingredient that is needed to make a change to the people’s views is the deployment of overseers to gently intervene when people are not wearing masks, says the study.
Prof Dr Be-Nazir Ahmed on several occasions told Dhaka Tribune that from a public health point of view, the government needed to make the facemasks available for all since it is the strongest shield to slow down the transmission of the virus.
Prof Robed Amin, a spokesperson of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), said that the local government division was responsible for arranging campaigns to raise awareness among the common people.
Asif Saleh, executive director of Brac, said that using a mask was the least costly means for protection from Covid-19.
The research showed that vulnerable populations require material support to comply with Covid compliant behavior. Hand washing stations were more effective in public facilities than at the household level.
“There is no alternative to increasing community engagement for effective and sustained behavioral change,” he added.
He said that behavioral change was a long-term process and required continuous reinforcement. “Regular interaction between the community groups and the community ensures that the community needs are being met and these are needed to be addressed.