Experience from past incidents underscores the importance of ensuring that protective behaviors are outlined and that behavioral counseling to the public and healthcare professionals is acted upon.

Therefore, behavioral science must be at the center of the public health response. While response agencies are moving quickly to issue advice to raise awareness and inform the public and professionals about what steps to take to minimize transmission, behavior change in the face of an impending pandemic can be slow and maybe too late to avoid hundreds or thousands of potentially preventable deaths.

We must learn the lessons from previous incidents and act now to ensure that behavioral science is at the center of planning and delivering the public health response designed to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

The experience of past incidents underscores the importance of ensuring that protective behaviors are outlined, and that behavioral counseling is acted upon to the public and health professionals.

The increase in unaffected patients in medical facilities during the SARS outbreak and the low absorption of the H1N1 flu vaccine during the 2009/10 pandemic should serve as a reminder.

Similarly, emergencies such as infectious disease outbreaks can lead to spontaneous, pro-social, and adaptive behaviors in affected populations, which must be understood and guided. A new pandemic will challenge any system; The success of our mitigation efforts will inevitably depend on informal networks of support and family and community care.

Each behavior’s relative importance may differ from one country to another, depending on the local context. Each of these behaviors requires sub-behaviors that may differ depending on the situation.

Each behavior involves different challenges in terms of the motivation, ability, and opportunity required to implement them. We must now consider how to meet these challenges.

As there is much we do not know about the transmission of COVID-19, continued research is important. The behavioral science research plan should include the study of:

Adaptation of information needs for subgroups, including heterogeneous population groups and health professionals.

The intended and unintended psychological and social impact of behavioral and public health interventions designed to change transmission-related behaviors (e.g., anxiety, stigma).

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