Feeling a tiny bit star-struck (having watched her YouTube talks, read her book and research papers – embarrassingly in that order) it was inspiring to hear Susan Michie, Professor of Health Psychology and Director of the Centre for Behaviour Change (CBC) at University College London deliver the opening welcome to this year’s two day CBC conference. Susan outlined a stimulating programme of lectures, panel discussions and debriefs of the latest Behaviour Change research, and I was incredibly excited that the key focus for this year’s conference was right up my street: “The use of Digital and Other Innovative Methods”.
The whole conference was grounded in ‘The Behaviour Change Wheel’, a framework of 19 interventions underpinned by theoretical model COM-B as part of the ground-breaking work done by the UCL’s Centre for Behaviour Change. The model has had a huge impact for those involved with creating Behaviour Change Interventions. The simple, radical and underlying principle of COM-B is that someone must have the capability, opportunity and motivation to change and recognises that behaviour is part of an interacting system involving all these components
The COM-B model is increasingly transitioning into the commercial world, providing real world value for organisations and enabling digital interventions to generate insights about user behaviour. Dr Jennifer Turgiss from pharma and med tech device giant Johnson and Johnson talked about the influencers of change and how we can capture different levels of evidence to evaluate outcomes effectively. Combining behavioural science, with data science and technology gives the ability to track everything longitudinally over time. This in turn delivers an analytics learning loop that means your product or service can constantly be evolving through incremental changes.
The Knowledge in Practice session explored seven short presentations from innovative health and wellbeing projects that had developed digital tools using the Behaviour Change model. These included Baby Buddy, a public health app for parent and parents to be promoting self-care and helping the transition to parenthood and The Wonder of Me, an interactive game for KS1 children to create healthy eating ambassadors in the battle to combat childhood obesity.
Over lunch 30 poster presentations were delivered covering a wide range of topics including Cancer Rehabilitation, Risk Assessment & Diagnosis, Mental Health and Wellbeing, Maternal and Child Health and Primary Care and Health Promotion.
The afternoon sessions covered engagement, measurement and communication and included a range of short debriefs from academics who outlined findings from their research into usage patterns; influences of uptake and engagement with health and wellbeing smartphone apps; testing the decoy effect to increase service uptake and understanding experiences of teenagers with chronic pain through mhealth symptom tracking.
The third session of the day covered digital interventions promoting physical activity including self regulation techniques; a randomised control trial to increase physical activity in adults over 50; increasing motivation for exercise through an app and the impact of online active classroom resources on physical activity, wellbeing and behaviour.
After a buzzing drinks reception, a conference dinner was organised at UCL for the presenters, facilitators and delegates. My own tutors from the MSc in Behaviour Change I’m studying were also attending the conference, so it was really interesting to catch up with them and share our thoughts on the first day.
If there was a slight hangover from the conference dinner the previous night, Dr Felix Greaves certainly blew it away with a funny, informative and incredibly inspiring opening keynote speech entitled Digital Prevention: A National Perspective. His engaging presentation encapsulated both his academic passions as a Clinical Senior Lecturer at Imperial College London and the challenges he faces in his day job as Deputy Director, Science and Strategic Information at Public Health England. The talk outlined Public Health England’s latest thinking in how we can use digital to explore opportunities for preventative services at large scale, marginal cost that deliver the evidence required to put interventions into practice.
The second day of presentations explored Digital Health Services. Ann Blandford, Deputy Director of Digital health at UCL, presented the findings of her study on attitudes towards HIV related online and remote testing resources. Sophie Turnbull, Senior Research Associate at Bristol University presented a review of web based health interventions for the self care of people with chronic conditions. The afternoon covered the use of digital in behaviour change interventions to increase healthy diets. The final Knowledge in Practice session covered Frameworks and Measurement to provide an interdisciplinary framework for designing, implementing, evaluating interventions and measuring their impact. Finally, came my favourite presentation of the conference (and the best designed slides) delivered by Dustin DiTommaso, who gave a thought provoking talk on the value of combining customer journey mapping and the Com-B model to aid decision making during the design process.
Traditionally the CBC Conference has appealed to academics to share their latest work with their peers, but now, in its 5th year, the conference has an equal split between industry and academia.
At HMA working as an industry partner with the NHS, the third sector and academia, we’re delighted to be part of the exciting new world of behaviour change so we can apply the theoretical advances into practice for our projects.
It is clear that in the health sector we need structured evidence and health economics models to prove our effectiveness and confidently continue the development of transformational digital tools. This year’s CBC conference both confirmed the need for that evidence and provided inspiration for how we can continue to work together to make change happen.