Tuesday, 26 July 2011, 10:04 AM
A report published on 19 July by the House of Lords Science and Technology Sub-Committee into the way the Government tries to influence people's behaviour using behaviour change interventions found that 'nudges' used in isolation are unlikely to be effective. The report argued that a whole range of measures - including some regulatory measures - will be needed to change behaviour in a way that will make a real difference to society's biggest problems.
Commenting on the publication of the report, Committee Chair Baroness Neuberger said:
"Focusing on how we can change a whole nation's behaviour, has become an increasingly pressing issue as governments realise that societal problems, like the need to reduce obesity and reduce carbon emissions, aren't going away - and are even getting worse. We welcome this Government's desire to take the science behind behaviour change seriously in an attempt to find an effective solution.
"But changing the behaviour of a population is likely to take time, perhaps a generation or more, and politicians usually look for quick win solutions. 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."
Findings and recommendations from the Committee include:
- The Government must invest in gathering more evidence about what measures work to influence population behaviour change
- They should appoint an independent Chief Social Scientist to provide them with robust and independent scientific advice
- The Government should take steps to implement a traffic light system of nutritional labelling on all food packaging
- Current voluntary agreements with businesses in relation to public health have major failings. They are not a proportionate response to the scale of the problem of obesity and do not reflect the evidence about what will work to reduce obesity. If effective agreements cannot be reached, or if they show minimal benefit, the Government should pursue regulation.
Access the full Behaviour Change report