Surgo Ventures
We use all the tools available from behavioral science, data science, and artificial intelligence to unlock solutions that will save and improve people’s lives.
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The United States is racing against time to vaccinate a majority of the population, while also dealing with supply- and demand-related barriers that can jeopardize any phase of the vaccine rollout. That’s why today, we launched a new data tool, the U.S. COVID-19 Vaccine Coverage Index (CVAC), to provide health officials and policymakers the precise, county-level data they will need to identify which communities are at risk of low COVID-19 vaccine coverage and why, based on underlying community characteristics.

The new index assesses every county in the United States — geographically and demographically — to identify the barriers to getting…


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Photo: World Bank Photo Collection

South Africa is currently grappling with a painful second wave of COVID-19, heightened by the discovery of a highly contagious variant in December. As we attempt to assess the distribution of this burden in South Africa, we must consider how reported COVID-19 statistics — total cases and deaths — likely underestimate the true impact of the virus due to limited continent-wide testing. As a result, we should base our analysis of the pandemic in South Africa on alternative measures, such as excess deaths.

As cases surge and the number of excess deaths peaks, dropping only recently, South Africans face fear…


The “watchful,” the “cost-anxious,” and the “system distrusters” are all types of people that can be persuaded with the right approaches

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We encourage those working to increase COVID-19 vaccine uptake in their communities to take a page from the behavioral science and marketing playbook: Prioritize those Americans who are persuadable (43% of the U.S. population) by dividing them into psychobehavioral segments and focusing on the specific barriers those three segments — The “Watchful,” (20%), The “Cost-Anxious,” (14%), and The “System Distrusters” (9%) — perceive to getting vaccinated.

What’s especially tricky about COVID-19 is that unlike a ‘normal’ vaccination campaign we have extremely limited time that we can’t waste trying to convince people who simply won’t be convinced. …


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Simply put, communities across America are not all equally vulnerable to the effects of the pandemic. Certain factors — such as socioeconomic status, ethnicity, work environments, and healthcare systems — make some communities more vulnerable to COVID-19’s impact, and in differing ways.

In fact, new Surgo Ventures analysis shows that, since the beginning of the pandemic, people in vulnerable communities have been:

23% more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19

32% more likely to have died from COVID-19

29% less likely to be tested for COVID-19

35% more likely to be unemployed

Yet leaders at national, state, and local levels…


A Chatbot Delivers Health Information Directly to Couples

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A farmer in Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, India, had little interest or knowledge of family planning. That is until he started using askNivi, a sexual and reproductive health (SRH) chatbot on WhatsApp. “I started using condoms after reading information on askNivi,” he told our team, “It gave me all the correct information. It changed my point of view.”

In Madhya Pradesh — a rural state in central India with a population of over 75 million people — there is a high unmet need for family planning methods. A 2019 study by Surgo Ventures on SRH in Madhya Pradesh found that 44%…


In the absence of reliable data on the effects of the pandemic, the Africa COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index can inform a targeted pandemic response

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Accra, Ghana (Source: Unsplash)

On January 17, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo issued a sober warning to his country: “Our COVID-19 treatment centres have gone from having zero patients to now being full because of the upsurge in infections. At this current rate … our healthcare infrastructure will be overwhelmed.”

Ghana’s early response to the pandemic was deemed a success, gaining praise for taking decisive actions to stop the spread of the virus, including lockdowns and social-distancing measures. But in light of a new uptick in confirmed cases, policy makers need to carefully introduce response measures to control the spread. …


COVID-19 has not discriminated, but America’s response has

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Since the start of the pandemic, people living in America’s most vulnerable counties are 32% more likely to have died from COVID-19 than those in the least vulnerable counties.

But more closely monitoring and targeting resources to highly vulnerable communities — those most at risk of the negative financial and health impacts of the pandemic — can help save lives.

This is one of the key takeaways from our new report Vulnerable Communities and COVID-19: The damage done, and the way forward,” which draws on our COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index and our new Precision for COVID Data Explorer, a tool…


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A troubling number of healthcare workers — 15 percent — who have been offered an approved COVID-19 vaccine refuse to take it, according to the first comprehensive vaccine hesitancy survey of healthcare workers in the United States, which we released today.

The 2,504 respondents to our survey, which was administered December 17–30, 2020, consisted of three groups: “Healthcare Professionals” (i.e., physicians, nurses, dentists); “Allied Health Professionals” (i.e., health technicians, EMS personnel, physician therapists, home health workers); and “Health Management and Support Personnel” (i.e., administrative staff, operations staff).

According to “U.S. Healthcare Workers: COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake and Attitudes”, 15% of healthcare…


Public testing data is hard to come by for most countries

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“COVID-19 testing” by World Bank Photo Collection is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

While many more developed continents are buckling under the strain of COVID-19, African countries have been faring relatively well. To date, despite having 17% of the world’s population, Africa has reported less than 6% of the global COVID-19 cases and about 3% of the total COVID-19 deaths worldwide. Experts believe this is due, in part, to its younger population, warmer temperatures and cross-over immunity from other diseases. In addition, policymakers acted early — closing borders and enforcing stringent policies such as lockdowns and strict social-distancing measures.

However, it would be premature to say that Africa has escaped the worst of…


Spinoff of Surgo Foundation led by CEO Sema Sgaier and Board of Directors Mala Gaonkar, Malcolm Gladwell, Bill Helman IV, and Peter Piot

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The co-founders of Surgo Foundation, Mala Gaonkar and Sema Sgaier, announced today that they have spun off an independent nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization called Surgo Ventures.

With headquarters in Washington, DC and a hub in the UK, Surgo Ventures is dedicated to solving health and social problems with precision. Surgo Ventures will take all of the insights and tools developed by Surgo Foundation over the past five years, and scale them for even greater impact.

Surgo Ventures will be led by Co-Founder and CEO Sema Sgaier, and governed by a Board of Directors including Co-Founder and Chair Mala Gaonkar, Malcolm Gladwell…

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