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  1. Abstract During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic, many health professionals used social media to promote preventative health behaviors. We conducted a randomized controlled trial of the effect of a Facebook advertising campaign consisting of short videos recorded by doctors and nurses to encourage users to stay at home for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays ( NCT04644328 and AEARCTR-0006821 ). We randomly assigned counties to high intensity ( n  = 410 (386) at Thanksgiving (Christmas)) or low intensity ( n  = 410 (381)). The intervention was delivered to a large fraction of Facebook subscribers in 75% and 25% of randomly assigned zip codes in high- and low-intensity counties, respectively. In total, 6,998 (6,716) zip codes were included, and 11,954,109 (23,302,290) users were reached at Thanksgiving (Christmas). The first two primary outcomes were holiday travel and fraction leaving home, both measured using mobile phone location data of Facebook users. Average distance traveled in high-intensity counties decreased by −0.993 percentage points (95% confidence interval (CI): –1.616, −0.371; P = 0.002) for the 3 days before each holiday compared to low-intensity counties. The fraction of people who left home on the holiday was not significantly affected (adjusted difference: 0.030; 95% CI: −0.361, 0.420; P = 0.881).more »The third primary outcome was COVID-19 infections recorded at the zip code level in the 2-week period starting 5 days after the holiday. Infections declined by 3.5% (adjusted 95% CI: −6.2%, −0.7%; P = 0.013) in intervention compared to control zip codes. Social media messages recorded by health professionals before the winter holidays in the United States led to a significant reduction in holiday travel and subsequent COVID-19 infections.« less
  2. Abstract

    Can we identify highly central individuals in a network without collecting network data, simply by asking community members? Can seeding information via such nominated individuals lead to significantly wider diffusion than via randomly chosen people, or even respected ones? In two separate large field experiments in India, we answer both questions in the affirmative. In particular, in 521 villages in Haryana, we provided information on monthly immunization camps to either randomly selected individuals (in some villages) or to individuals nominated by villagers as people who would be good at transmitting information (in other villages). We find that the number of children vaccinated every month is 22% higher in villages in which nominees received the information. We show that people’s knowledge of who are highly central individuals and good seeds can be explained by a model in which community members simply track how often they hear gossip about others. Indeed, we find in a third data set that nominated seeds are central in a network sense, and are not just those with many friends or in powerful positions.