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Improving People's Health: Applying behavioural and social sciences to improve population health and wellbeing in England


  • Public Health England
  • Faculty of Public Health
  • Association of Directors of Public Health
  • Behavioural Science and Public Health Network
  • Local Goverment Association

We live in a time when our population faces complex health and wellbeing challenges that stem from biological, psychological, economic, environmental, and social causes. The rising burden of long-term conditions and health inequalities poses a challenge for the whole public health system, and to deal with this we need to address the social, cultural and behavioural aspects of health and its determinants at a population level.

The behavioural and social sciences are the future of public health. Evidence from behavioural science suggests that simple and easy ways of helping people to change their behaviour are the most effective. Whether it’s encouraging smokers to quit, increasing uptake of the NHS Health Check, making healthier food choices easier, or reducing the number of inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions, this evidence can help in understanding and therefore influencing behaviour change that promotes health, prevents disease, and reduces health inequalities. We must reach and be meaningful to people in the lives that they are leading.

It is time for the public health system to advance the use of behavioural and social sciences, and for this purpose, PHE’s Behavioural Insights experts, working with many partners, have led the collaborative development of this comprehensive strategy – the first of its kind in the field.

Improving People’s Health: Applying behavioural and social sciences to improve population health and wellbeing in England aims to enable public health professionals to engage with and apply the insights, methodologies and knowledge of behavioural and social sciences to their work on protecting and improving the health of the people. As a high-level guide, it provides a framework and consolidates a suite of relevant resources to help achieve this.

The strategy was developed in partnership with the Association of Directors of Public Health, Faculty of Public Health, Behavioural Science and Public Health Network, and the Local Government Association. This is the start of the process, not the conclusion, and PHE joins all stakeholders in our commitment to use this strategy to create and encourage further collaboration across the sector. We owe all partners involved in its development a debt of gratitude for freely giving their time, energy and expertise for the good of the health of our population.

Duncan Selbie
Chief Executive
Public Health England