The Behavioural Insights Unit’s Community of Practice (CoP) event on 4 December showcased the work on health that we’ve done in the past year with our partner organisations (you can also check out our Spotlight on Health Results report here).
It is an exciting time to be in behavioural insights, with dedicated teams in a number of countries including the UK, US, Singapore and Germany (you may have seen the recent announcements from the US and our own Australian Government). CoP events are a way for us to share our results and lessons with the BI community in NSW. It was terrific to see the latest CoP event was fully subscribed, with attendees from diverse sectors including environment, health, insurance, community services, universities and financial services.
We were fortunate to have Associate Professor Julie Redfern (Deputy Director, Cardiovascular Division at The George Institute for Global Health and an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Sydney) open the event as keynote speaker. In addition to her extensive knowledge of cardiovascular disease, Julie has been an important sponsor and partner for us on the Go4Fun Childhood Obesity trial. Julie spoke about TEXT ME, a program providing lifestyle-focused text messages to patients with coronary heart disease (CHD), in addition to care provided by their doctors. A randomised control trial of TEXT ME found significantly improved behavioural outcomes (e.g. salt intake, fruit and vegetable consumption) and outcomes in CHD risk factors (blood pressure, cholesterol, regular exercise, smoking and body mass index) of these patients after six months. TEXT ME will be subject to a health economic evaluation and full process evaluation and analysis of its generalisability.
My overall reflections on the CoP event are:
- The power of small changes – for example, our low cost SMS trial with St Vincent’s Hospital improved hospital efficiencies by reducing missed outpatient appointments, and small changes to a reminder letter increased the number of women attending their biennial cervical cancer screening.
- The broad application of behavioural insights – they can apply to everything from the content and language of messaging, to how a program is actually delivered. Often a challenge becomes selecting the handful of behavioural elements that we have the resources (and stakeholder buy-in) to test.
- The solution is often simple but it is underpinned by considerable research, collaboration and co-design with stakeholders and commitment to see it through – I’m sure our agencies and partners agree with this!
- As well as improving service delivery, behavioural insights have an important role in informing upstream policy development. We saw this in providing input to the Make Healthy Normal campaign in NSW, which encourages behaviour change for people by providing small steps to choose smaller portions, eat more fruit and vegetables, make water the default drink, sit less and move more.
I particularly enjoyed the discussion that happened in the poster session about the SMS trial at St Vincent’s Hospital. Eight text messages in total were trialled, underpinned by theories like loss aversion (highlighting that the hospital incurs a monetary loss when patients don’t turn up to their appointments) and social norms (framing this ‘loss’ as a loss to the hospital or other patients). The audience had terrific suggestions for other messages, which could be explored if the trial is extended or expanded.
You can check out all of the poster sessions here.
Thank you to everyone who came and to those who provided survey feedback. We had a 40% response rate, which is marvellous, and all attendees said they were satisfied or very satisfied with event.
We wish everybody happy holidays from the Behavioural Insights Unit and look forward to many more exciting projects in 2016! And if you’re thinking about making New Year’s resolutions, consider how you could use Implementation Intentions to plan for when holiday festivities disrupt your new exercise regime!
Community of Practice plenary session
Dr Julie Redfern speaking about the TEXTME trial
Making Healthy Normal posterboard session