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J Health Serv Res Policy. 2008 Oct;13 Suppl 3:64-9. doi: 10.1258/jhsrp.2008.008014.

Designing and implementing behaviour change interventions to improve population health.

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  • 1Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London, London, UK.


Improved population health depends on changing behaviour: of those who are healthy (e.g. stopping smoking), those who are ill (e.g. adhering to health advice) and those delivering health care. To design more effective behaviour change interventions, we need more investment in developing the scientific methods for studying behaviour change. Behavioural science is relevant to all phases of the process of implementing evidence-based health care: developing evidence through primary studies, synthesizing the findings in systematic reviews, translating evidence into guidelines and practice recommendations, and implementing these in practice. 'Behaviour change: Implementation and Health', the last research programme to be funded within the MRC HSRC, aimed to develop innovative ways of applying theories and techniques of behaviour change to understand and improve the implementation of evidence-based practice, as a key step to improving health. It focused on four areas of study that apply behaviour change theory:defining and developing a taxonomy of behaviour change techniques to allow replication of studies and the possibility of accumulating evidence; conducting systematic reviews, by categorizing and synthesizing interventions on the basis of behaviour change theory; investigating the process by which evidence is translated into guideline recommendations for practice; developing a theoretical framework to apply to understanding implementation problems and designing interventions. This work will contribute to advancing the science of behaviour change by providing tools for conceptualizing and defining intervention content, and linking techniques of behaviour change to their theoretical base.

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