Behavioural insights and health

Local Government AssociationLocal Government Association

A short collection of case studies to demonstrate how "nudge" theory is being used by local government, in particular public health practitioners, to encourage their residents to make changes to improve their health.

All the usual suspects are here; personalised communications (pre-filled forms to encourage parents of overweight children to sign up to free weight management classes for their children), peer pressure ("two thirds of eligible families have already claimed their free voucher"), delayed gratification (prescriptions for anti-biotics are post-dated to prevent excessive use) and substitution (menu changes so that the side dish default is salad rather than chips).

Another addition to the stable is the use of 'life change' moments as a way of promoting healthier lives, and the acknowledgement that councils often have contact with people when these life changing events happen.

As one council officer explains, "research shows that people are more likely to make a change when their usual habits are disrupted – for example when we move house, have a baby or a child starts school".

These insights have enabled the borough to increase the number of families walking to school, by targeting families whose children are about to start primary school, with the aim of embedding the habit from the start of term.

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