Scientists call for behavioural paragraph in new health policy

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Behavioural expertise is still insufficiently used for health gains, such as Covid's approach and the affordability of care and prevention. Yesterday, a number of behavioural experts presented the position paper ‘Gedragsexpertise is de sleutel voor effectief leefstijlbeleid’ (Behavioural expertise is the key to effective lifestyle policy) to State Secretary Van Ooijen (VWS). In the position paper, experts call for behavioural expertise to become a structural part of policy. The inclusion of a behavioural paragraph in new health policy may offer a solution. 

Behavioural change is the key to success in achieving a healthy lifestyle and prevents the risk of chronic diseases. The importance of this is structurally underexposed in policy. The corona pandemic made this painfully clear. The Dutch were advised to keep exercising, but on the other hand gyms were forced to close their doors. Attention to behavioural change also requires attention from healthcare professionals, politicians and policymakers.

Experts call for action

Twelve renowned behavioural experts, including Medical Delta Professor Healthy Society Andrea Evers, therefore call for action: focus primarily on behavioural expertise in the development and implementation of interventions and policies. Experts, organisations and partners of Lifestyle4Health endorse this call. "How do we get people, citizens but also healthcare professionals, moving? From our profession we can make a contribution, provided we are involved from the start," says social psychologist Pepijn van Empelen of TNO.

Inclusion of behavioural paragraph

The use of behavioural expertise doesn’t have to be restricted to lifestyle and prevention policy. Attention to behavioural expertise is also a valuable addition to other areas such as the living environment and tackling health inequalities. A behavioural paragraph, in which explicit attention is paid to how behavioural change can be brought about, can ensure better implementation of policy. Professor Karien Stronks, Professor of Public Health, Amsterdam UMC: "In my recently published blog on the occasion of this position paper I pointed out the missed opportunity and the damage that we as a society incur when we make insufficient use of the expertise of behavioural scientists in prevention policy. I am very pleased that State Secretary Van Ooijen fully endorsed the importance of behavioural expertise in our conversation, and was also able to tell us from his own experience how important scientific knowledge about behavioural change is in underpinning prevention policy."

Download the position paper here

The behavioural experts and authors of the position paper are Andrea Evers (professor of Health Psychology, Leiden University and Medical Delta professor of Healthy Society, Leiden University/TU Delft/Erasmus University), Pepijn van Empelen (social psychologist, TNO), Marieke Adriaanse (professor of Behavioural Interventions in Population Health, Leiden University/LUMC) Aarnout Brombacher (professor of Design Theory and Information Flow Analysis, TU Eindhoven), Lex Burdorf (professor of Determinants of Public Health, Erasmus MC), Lisette Gemert-van Pijnen (Professor of Persuasive Health Technology, University of Twente), Stef Kremers (Professor of Health Promotion, Maastricht University), Anne Roefs (Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience of Abnormal Eating, Maastricht University) Jaap Seidell (Professor of Nutrition and Health, VU Amsterdam), Sabita Soedamah-Muthu (senior lecturer, Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences), Karien Stronks (professor of Public Health, Amsterdam UMC) and Emely de Vet (professor of Consumption and Healthy Lifestyle, WUR).

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