Reflection of the 2023 BSPHN Conference on Using Behaviour and Social Science for Creating Healthy Futures.

Autumn / Winter 2023

A conference experience of how healthy futures can be created using behavioural and social sciences.

Samuel Baffour Kyei

PhD Student, University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol

I had the privilege of attending the Behavioural Science and Public Health Network (BSPHN) 2023 Conference on using behavioural and social sciences to create healthy futures. This inspiring event brought together a wide variety of experts and knowledgeable individuals from academic and public sectors, encompassing public health and other disciplines. The conference aimed to deliberate on core national health issues and explore ways to protect the public and promote healthy and resilient communities.

I successfully secured funding provided by the organisers, which enabled me to attend and give a poster presentation about my research titled: 'Supporting Black African Students to Engage More in Physical Activity: A Qualitative Study of Lived Experiences in the Midlands, UK.' I am immensely grateful to the BSPHN for both the funding and the chance to present my research at the conference. It is a valuable opportunity to share my reflections on the conference experience.

Prior to the event, I had high expectations and eagerly awaited the conference day. My background in public health and built and natural environment research has exposed me to several theoretical underpinnings and perspectives on promoting health and well-being through a behavioural lens. While I had encountered some applications in academic literature, I was particularly intrigued to understand how these concepts translated within applied settings and where they intersected when these two areas merged. I was eagerly anticipating engaging in discussions about innovative ways to bridge the gap between the public sector and academia, and, more importantly, to build effective networks with other researchers and professionals both within and outside my discipline.

At the conference, several sessions stood out, leaving a lasting impression on me. The keynote address in the first session by Prof. Richard Wilkinson on Social Inequalities and Health Outcomes captivated my attention. He emphasised the devastating and long-lasting impact of social inequalities and how they have affected countries globally. He also discussed the influence of inequalities on stress and anxiety levels, which is an area I am currently researching, so I was particularly enthralled. The conversation enhanced my interest in this research area and ignited a passion in me to explore how these challenges can be reduced through my own research. It was also enlightening to hear about evidence-based approaches to minimise the challenge of social inequalities within and across countries.

Additionally, the conference shed light on how different behavioural approaches are used both within and across academia, public health agencies, and the public sector. It was exciting to hear different perspectives and experiences from both researchers and industry players regarding some of the common advantages and challenges of applying behaviour theories in their operations. Although the COM-B model dominated among other behaviour theories, it became increasingly evident that behaviour change is a complex process that requires targeted strategies, tailored interventions, and long-term engagement to foster sustainable health outcomes. This insight reinforced the significance of multidisciplinary collaboration and the integration of research findings into practical applications.

Attending the conference also provided valuable networking opportunities. Engaging in conversations with fellow attendees, presenters, and experts allowed me to expand my professional network and forge meaningful connections. The exchange of ideas and experiences with individuals from diverse backgrounds enhanced my perspective and opened avenues for potential collaborations. I look forward to future partnerships that may arise from these valuable connections.

The conference provided numerous thought-provoking insights that have significantly enriched my understanding of behaviour and social science in the context of creating healthy futures. Two significant takeaways from the conference were the recognition of the crucial role played by social determinants of health and the imperative need for an understanding of the multifaceted nature of behaviour, which warrants a collaborative approach to its investigation. A comprehensive understanding of the social, economic, and environmental factors that shape society is paramount in contriving interventions and policies that effectively foster the promotion of healthier and resilient communities. However, the limited timed sessions at the conference meant that some areas were not discussed in much depth which leaves room for further exploration.

The thought-provoking sessions, engaging discussions, and networking opportunities presented at the 2023 BSPHN conference have greatly enhanced my comprehension of the intricate interplay between behaviour, social science, and the advancement of wellbeing. This funded opportunity has equipped me with invaluable knowledge, established valuable connections, and fostered a profound sense of purpose in my contributions to the field. I extend my sincere gratitude to the organisers for facilitating this enriching experience. I am eagerly enthusiastic about applying the insights garnered from this conference to my forthcoming endeavours, as I actively strive to shape healthier futures for both individuals and communities alike.