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This week our undergraduate health psychology students have been looking at taxonomies of health behaviour change techniques – what they are, why we need them, and how to use them. A taxonomy (in the general sense) is a system for classifying things according to their distinguishing features. Such classification systems have been used for everything from Catholic saints to Australian motion pictures.
To the health psychologist, a good taxonomy is a list which classifies the active ingredients that might form part of a behaviour change intervention. This might include, for example:
- Providing people with information on the link between behaviour and health (e.g. telling people that smoking causes lung disease, that vaccination can protect from childhood illness, etc.)
- Encouraging people to identify as a role model for others (e.g. encouraging parents to eat well and avoid smoking in order to set a good example for their children)
- Giving people rewards contingent on their performing the desired behaviour (e.g. giving people a shopping voucher every time they pass a breath test that shows they’ve not smoked recently)
We need taxonomies to help us work out what the individual ingredients are in any programme or intervention. Knowing what the different parts are that make up the whole programme can help us test each part separately. Then we can focus on providing those active ingredients (programme components) that really work, and save money by leaving out components that don’t make any difference to the outcome.
There are lots of different lists and taxonomies available. For the undergraduate coursework we have chosen the taxonomy of 26 behaviour change techniques published by Abraham & Michie (2008). In today’s seminars we had a gentle competition to see which team (s) performed best at recognising the 26 techniques on the taxonomy. Scores were very impressive so this bodes well for students’ performance in the upcoming assignment.
Thanks very much to everyone who made our Behaviour Change Training Workshop on Intervention Mapping (11 September) such a success. Despite the unfulfilled promise of Danish pastries (which never did turn up but will be posted out to participants if they do), the day seemed to go very well.
We ask participants to self-rate their confidence in each of the workshop’s key learning outcomes: before the workshop begins and again at the end of the day. The numbers are small and I haven’t done any statistical testing, but a preliminary look at the data suggests that the training left participants feeling more confident in all areas of intervention design.
Looking forward to our next workshop which is likely to be in early 2014. If you’d like us to run one sooner please let us know.
Just heading home after an enjoyable (but rather hot) day facilitating the motivational interviewing behaviour change workshop. Thank you very much to all involved. Links to online forum, videos and evaluation to follow. Here’s a short video to whet your appetite meantime…
One of the big changes that spring (and the coalition government) has introduced to UK healthcare is the shift in responsibility for public health. The remit for this work lay previously with the NHS but it has now been moved to local government. This means that budgets for public health research and interventions will be transferred. Professionals working for local authorities will have to decide how money can be best spent to improve the health and wellbeing of their local populations. This might include, for example, health promotion campaigns around diet, physical activity, smoking, drugs and alcohol usage.
Health psychologists can contribute to designing and evaluating new programmes or adapting existing ones to make them more locally appropriate. For some more information on the changes and how they may affect you, see the updates at the Local Government Association’s website.