Cover: How the Department of Health Influences healthy living

How the Department of Health Influences healthy living

The use of behaviour change programmes in public health

Published Nov 6, 2009

by Lila Rabinovich, Claire Celia, Philipp-Bastian Brutscher, Annalijn Conklin

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Initiatives aimed at influencing the behaviour of citizens to improve individual and societal outcomes have been systematically used by governments (as well as by non-governmental bodies) for decades in many fields including transport, education, crime and health. Such initiatives are very prominent in the public health field, where they typically focus on aspects of people's lifestyles which can lead to adverse health outcomes, such as hazardous alcohol consumption, tobacco smoking, drug use, bad diet, lack of physical exercise, and risky sexual behaviour.

Governments typically use a range of measures to influence or shape the behaviour of citizens, including laws and regulations, fiscal incentives, and the provision of certain infrastructure. In addition, governments use programmes ranging from media-based information and awareness campaigns to more comprehensive programmes including targeted service delivery, training and so forth to positively influence behaviour. The latter, which are the focus of this study, are very common in the UK and elsewhere, and significant financial resources are spent on them; in the UK, for example, around £115 million is spent annually on public health marketing campaigns (DH, 2009(a)).

Against this background, the UK National Audit Office has commissioned a study to examine the use of behaviour change programmes campaigns in today's Department of Health (DH). More specifically, the study aims to improve understanding of the importance, nature and impact of behaviour change programmes in today's DH.

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The research described in this report was prepared for the UK National Audit Office and was conducted by RAND Europe.

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