National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
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More investment needed in gathering evidence on effective behaviour change, says Lords committee

The Government must invest in gathering more evidence about what measures work to influence population behaviour change, according to a report by the House of Lords Science and Technology Sub-Committee, published today. The report - Behaviour Change - investigates the way the Government tries to influence people's behaviour using behaviour change interventions.

Many governmental goals, such as bringing down levels of crime, promoting physical activity, increasing savings and meeting targets for carbon emissions, can be achieved only if people change their behaviour. There are many ways of changing behaviour, including through legislation, marketing campaigns, and 'nudging' people into changing their behaviour. The committee conclude that a whole range of measures will be needed to change behaviour in a way that will make a difference to society's biggest problems.

"Changing the behaviour of a population is likely to take time, perhaps a generation or more, and politicians usually look for quick win solutions," said Baroness Neuberger, chair of the committee. "The Government needs to be braver about mixing and matching policy measures, using both incentives and disincentives to bring about change. They must also get much better at evaluating the measures they put in place."

"In order to help people live healthier and happier lives, we need to understand much more about what sorts of policies will have an effect on how people behave. And the best way to do this is through research, proper evaluation of policies and the provision of well-informed and independent scientific advice."

The Centre for Public Health Excellence (CPHE) at NICE is a national leader in the synthesis and review of the evidence about health related behaviour change. NICE has developed one of the most robust systems in the world for evaluating and interpreting the evidence about the effectiveness of behaviour change interventions across the full spectrum of the UK population. The work of NICE was acknowledged in the Committee's report.

In October 2007, NICE published recommendations on behaviour change for NHS and other professionals with responsibility for helping people to change their health-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviour so that they can lead healthier lives. The guidance is based on a comprehensive assessment of the evidence on what approaches and strategies are effective in bringing about health-related benefits for the population as a whole.

Commenting on the House of Lords report, CPHE director Professor Mike Kelly said "The committee have provided an encouraging endorsement of the methods and approaches used at NICE to produce guidance on changing people's behaviour. We will be taking the committee's report into account when we review our behaviour change guidance in the autumn."

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