This Startup Is Using Behavioral Science and SMS to Send COVID-19 Education to the Masses

April 28, 2020



Key Points

  • focuses on communicating health information over the mobile platform “with precision and cultural competency”

  • Product was originally developed in East Africa. Currently working in the United States and in South Africa.

  • is seeing about a three-week lag between the needs they’re servicing in the United States compared with South Africa.

  • Since early March, Yelpaala and her team have been working on getting a repository of COVID-related messages in place, so that they can role them out to mass audiences quickly.

  • focuses on the science of communication, employing a behavioral scientist whose focus is health literacy, and using the right words to motivate change.

  • Typical partners currently include healthcare providers, health plans and large organizations. During COVID, has worked with partners to share messages about infection prevention, symptoms, where to get care, where are my prescriptions, etc…

  • As COVID-19 has progressed, the messaging on the platform has evolved to include education around coping and mental health.

  •’s mobile-first strategy is all about health equity, says Yelpaala. SMS messaging can reach the broadest group of people, regardless of smartphone or broadband availability. A large segment of society only has access to a smartphone, and cannot access a computer or broadband. In Africa, says Yelpaala, it’s important to not rely on internet access.

  • “SMS helps you reach everyone and bridge the digital divide.”

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