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HomeHealth & FitnessInvolve behavioral experts early for a healthy lifestyle

Involve behavioral experts early for a healthy lifestyle

Involve behavioural experts sooner for a healthy lifestyle
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Healthy lifestyle exercises are often unsuccessful . It’s hard to get people to eat healthy or exercise more. Twelve behavioral scientists said in a position paper that behavioral science expertise should be tapped earlier in policymaking. They will present the paper to Maarten van Ooijen (State Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport) on 31 August.

“We will not be a healthier nation if we don’t leverage behavioral science expertise soon, and still,” said Marieke Adriaanse, professor of population health behavioral interventions. Healthcare has traditionally focused on treatment rather than prevention, and medicine and medical treatment often take center stage in our healthcare system. The increase in lifestyle-related chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease requires a different approach. If patients and people with unhealthy lifestyles are to live longer, healthier lives, they will need to change their behavior—and health care and policy professionals will need to change theirs because they will need to advise differently.

Behavior change is complex and takes time and money. The latter is often lacking. Andrea Evers, professor of health psychology: “The vast majority agree that behavioural science expertise should be used alongside other disciplines, but it shouldn’t cost anything. It’s seen as an intrinsic part of things, and people don’t realise that you have to learn from Invest in it from the outset to ensure that this knowledge is systematically included and that behavioral interventions are successful.”

Behavioral scientists are not the key to success The Population Health Interdisciplinary Program is about sustainable healthcare with a greater focus on prevention. Adriaanse is Professor of Interdisciplinary Programs at Leiden University. “At the Hague campus, behavioural scientists work with GPs, epidemiologists, public administration experts and data scientists in the region. We look at health from a broad perspective. Behavioural scientists are not the key to the success of new policy or healthcare. People want more. It’s about collaboration between different disciplines.”


Current behavioral experts are often asked to join a program once the policy is more or less complete. “Behavioural expertise is sometimes reduced to a skill when understanding behaviour and supporting behavioural change is very complex,” Adriaanse said. “You need research and theoretical models to understand behavior and apply the right interventions and tools to different populations.”

To develop a successful policy, you need to analyze the needs of your target group. What issues are at play and what does the group need to live a healthier life and stay that way? Target groups also need to be involved in developing policies and interventions. What works in one community may not work in another. Evers: “We know from research that simply living in a neighborhood with lots of fast food chains means people are living less healthy lives. Wagging fingers and good advice has little effect. It makes thinking about where people live and what they face. Limits. Interventions that take into account environmental impacts can then be developed.”

Also, once it is there, policy must be continually evaluated . Circumstances, needs and technologies are constantly changing. Take the coronavirus pandemic when no one can go to the gym anymore. The state-of-the-art technology from five years ago is now obsolete.

Evers sees the BENEFIT project as a good example: here is where behavioral scientists have been involved in developing a tailor-made Interventions to help people with cardiovascular disease make lifestyle changes. Cardiovascular patients are supported during and after cardiac rehabilitation to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Support includes electronic health tools and rewards for healthy behaviors, taking into account the patient’s individual preferences and barriers.

climate change

The position paper is on the use of behavioural expertise in the lifestyle field. But the researchers argue that this knowledge should also be used more frequently and earlier in other fields. Evers: “In the context of climate change and sustainability, for example, human behavior is key to the success of policy change. Behavioural expertise in one area can also be used in other areas related to human behavior.”

After all the problems with the coronavirus vaccine, it turned out to be a great example of getting people to change their behavior, Adriaanse said. “The community approach means that you end up reaching a large number of people. By going into communities – sometimes using key people – and making room for problems and having vaccines readily available, it’s easier to meet people’s needs and remove any barriers. These are our Can be a valuable initiative for future learning.”

Citation : Involving behavioral experts in health early lifestyle (September 1, 2022), retrieved September 11, 2022 from

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