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Using behavioural science to promote Health For All, this World Health Day

Using behavioural science to promote Health For All, this World Health Day

WHO was founded with the objective of promoting health, keeping the world safe, and serving the vulnerable - so everyone, everywhere can attain the highest level of health and well-being. In recognition of this, we celebrate #HealthForAll this World Health Day.

The ultimate goal of behavioural science is to better understand human behaviours and apply this understanding to improve the quality of life for individuals and communities. It recognises that human behaviours play a significant role in contributing to many of the problems we face in society today. By using behavioural science as a tool, we can ensure policies and programs to promote human health and wellbeing are effective and target the individuals and groups that need it most.

Over the last 12 years, since BehaviourWorks Australia was first established, we have worked on numerous behaviour change projects aimed at promoting better access and outcomes in the health sector. This World Health Day we have handpicked some of the most recent projects and research to showcase the power of behavioural science in solving some of the barriers to achieving #HealthForAll. 

Here are some of our top areas where behavioural science can support healthcare:

Using behavioural science to support wellbeing and longevity for high-risk groups

By conducting research to better understand the problem, its facilitators and barriers, behavioural scientists can help policy-makers and program developers identify high-risk groups and tailor interventions to address their specific needs.

In our work to empower patients with spinal cord injury, together with Austin Health and AQA, we explored how to best engage groups at highest risk of this life-changing injury: males under the age of 35. This project aimed to inject new thinking, and support in their physical and emotional recovery from the traumatic injury, enabling them to continue manage their health, thrive, and live their best life.

Using behavioural science to harness community involvement for successful program development

A key feature of behavioural science is that it encourages the involvement of the target individuals or groups in policy or program design. One method of achieving this is through co-design: a tool used in behavioural science to design (something) by working collaboratively with one or more groups… ideally those directly involved in the problem.

In her research, Alex Waddell co-designed interventions and programs to build capacity in Shared-decision Making with the maternity care team at the Royal Women's Hospital. Shared-decision Making is an evidence-based process in which both the patient and doctor discuss the next steps of the patient's health care, the clinician brings their experience and knowledge of the risks and benefits of treatment options, while the patient is considered an expert in their own life, preferences and goals. By working closely with patients, clinicians, health service administrators, leaders and policy makers, Alex was able to successfully co-design programs that were appropriate, practical and effective.

Using systems mapping, a behavioural science tool, to effectively target individuals and groups most in need

Whilst human behaviour can underpin many problems we face in today’s society, behavioural science does acknowledge that these problems are systemic issues, making them complex and multifaceted. Thus, it is important to apply a ‘systems thinking’ approach to understanding a problem. This involves analysing a situation or problem of interest and representing it as a series of elements or parts and their interacting relationships.

To do this, behavioural science utilises a series of systems mapping tools (such as process, influence, and actor mapping). These tools prompt thinking about broader systems to identify, and therefore effectively target, all involved or affected by an issue.

You can read chapter 2 of our book ‘The Method Book’ for a deep dive into Systems Thinking and Behaviour.

When applied, behavioural science can be used as an excellent tool to ensure health policies and programs are effective for all…

Behavioural science offers an abundance of tools, techniques and methods that can promote successful outcomes to policy and programs targeting individual and community health. As human behaviours play a significant role in contributing to many of the problems we face in society today, we can also understand human behaviour to find solutions to these problems.

We have harnessed our expertise in behavioural science to support hospitals and other organisations within the healthcare sector to support the effectiveness of their programs in achieving #HealthForAll.

Work with us in designing your next health-related program. Get in touch.

Authored by Malaika Jaovisidha

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