Behaviour change by design: generating and implementing evidence to improve health for all  


  • Prof Dame Theresa Marteau

    University of Cambridge

  • Dr Gareth Hollands

    University of Cambridge

  • Prof Paul Fletcher

    University of Cambridge

  • Prof Marcus Munafo

    University of Bristol

Project summary

If people ate less, drank less alcohol and didn’t smoke, diseases such as diabetes and many cancers would be far less common. These unhealthy behaviours are more common among poorer people and they contribute to the gaps in health and life expectancy between the richest and poorest people. Progress in changing these behaviours is slow. Traditional approaches to behaviour change are based on information giving. They are generally ineffective, particularly among the poorest. Approaches that nudge changes are potentially more effective and equitable, and can involve redesigning environments, for example reducing plate size to reduce how much people eat. However, evidence is lacking on how effective such interventions are in real-world settings.

We propose a novel collaboration between behavioural and cognitive sciences to address this knowledge gap. In a series of studies we will evaluate the most promising interventions to reduce consumption of food, alcohol and tobacco, conducted in supermarkets, bars and cafeterias and using laboratory studies to understand and optimise interventions.

We will help implement the evidence generated through various activities overseen by an implementation advisory panel, to help accelerating progress in changing behaviour by redesigning environments to improve health for all.