The government is looking at a wide range of schemes to “nudge” people into adopting healthier lifestyles.
A behavioural insights team at the Cabinet Office was been set up to look at using “nudge theory” to change people’s behaviour. It has now used a discussion paper to launch a smoking cessation pilot, which is to be run by the high street retailer Boots and is designed to encourage participants to make commitments to quit smoking.
The insights team suggested that “quitters could be asked to sign a contract where they lose or keep rewards based on whether they pass regular smoking tests that prove they have not smoked”.
The Cabinet Office is also championing the concept of a “prompted choice” which could be used, for example, to encourage drivers to opt into the organ donor register when applying for a driving licence online. The online application form would not be processed until a firm “yes or no” answer had been given to the organ donation question.
Drinking at universities could be reduced using campaigns to correct false perceptions of how much students’ peers drink, according to the report.
It also says that changes to supermarket layouts and trolley design could encourage better diets.
Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin said the paper showed how the nudge approach could “help to encourage people to adopt healthier lifestyles”.
He added: “It does not attempt to be comprehensive or to suggest that behaviour change techniques are the silver bullet that can solve every problem, but does show how, in a number of areas, there are often cost-effective ways of encouraging behavioural change.”
- For more on how “nudge” could be used in the NHS go to www.hsj.co.uk/nudge