Using behavioural science for better health

Bulletin of the World Health Organization
Volume 99(11);  2021 Nov 1


Using behavioural science for better health
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Bull World Health Organ. 2021 Nov 1; 99(11): 755. Published online 2021 Nov 1. doi: 10.2471/BLT.21.287387
PMCID: PMC8542276
… As members of the broader public health community, we need to get better at listening and observing people and their needs. Doing so requires rigorous collection of behavioural data to understand, for example, how and why our minds take shortcuts, also called heuristics, when information is too much or unclear, or when the right choice is too hard to make.
We also need more information on how people around us influence our decisions, and on how to design environments, services, products and solutions that support, rather than block, behaviours that improve health.
Using behavioural insights is ultimately an act of humility: it requires the community of experts and policy-makers to test each other’s expert knowledge, biases and preferences, and to gather and use behavioural evidence on health-related decisions that all of us, as individuals, make on any given day.
This theme issue of the Bulletin on behavioural sciences for better health provides examples of the work of multidisciplinary teams across the world who have partnered to design interventions that have contributed to improve people’s health. These examples should encourage all those involved in public health to work more systematically in the same direction. Ensuring behaviourally informed strategies, policies and programmes – as opposed to siloed behavioural interventions – is essential to achieving and sustaining better health for all.