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Behaviour change – is there something missing?

Successful and impactful behaviour change requires commitment and time

Meg Morgan, Strategic Solutions Director

There is plenty of evidence to show that some things are bad for us: smoking, too much sugar, alcohol and drugs, for example. So why is it that some of us ignore the evidence and risk our health? What does it really take to change our thinking, the way we make decisions and how we behave?

While we may think that complex interventions are needed to successfully change behaviours, recent concepts such as Nudge Theory are suggesting otherwise. Nudges are particular types of interventions, the results of which can provide direct insight into a person’s behaviour. For example, providing prescription drugs in different colours to encourage adherence, or painting piano keys on stairs to encourage use instead of the escalator, are immediate impact interventions which have been shown to have a great effect. The impact of nudges can help shape future interventional strategies and therefore can work as part of longer-lasting and larger initiatives.

This is not to suggest that nudges are all it takes to effect a change in behaviour in every case. Bold programmes and interventions that focus on individual needs are shown to have a massive effect too. In 2012 Public Health England launched Stoptober, a national smoking cessation campaign that resulted in a ~50% increase in quitting during October compared with other months in the same year. This showed that designing a campaign with clear behavioural targets and fundamental psychological theory can result in impressive outcomes in an area of health that is notoriously difficult to influence.

So, if we understand our audience better and as a result are able to create highly effective change programmes, have we cracked the code? Probably not.

Trust is another key ingredient. Successful and impactful behaviour change takes understanding, the building of real trust and, because of that, it requires commitment and time. For the pharmaceutical industry this is where our real challenge lies.  Building trust across all operations from research and development, to patient advocacy, to corporate communications means a commitment over time.  The pharmaceutical industry has all the tools and a great opportunity to address this. It already invests hugely in long-term development programmes to understand drug efficacy and safety; the step required to take the same long-term view on implementing behaviour change programmes is not so big. If behavioural aspects are investigated early in the drug life cycle and implemented across all operations and, it will be a real win-win for all involved.

Contact Bedrock Health to talk about the missing link in your behaviour change communication programme.

30th March 2020

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Bedrock Healthcare Communications

01252 240200

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