Highlights from Behavioural Science Group At University Of Cambridge

University of Cambridge| Tue Aug 01 06:03:57 EDT 2017
Highlights from Behavioural Science Group  At University Of Cambridge

Posted by Vikki Houghton with Kate Ellis and Miranda Van Emmenis

In June, the Primary Care Unit arrived at Murray Edwards College for the bi-annual Unit away day. The ten research groups each presented three things the Unit as a whole might not know about them – using creative techniques and strictly no powerpoint. From a game of Mr & Mrs to a quiz show (including pies in the face!) the morning was certainly entertaining, but what about the Behavioural Science Group?

We focused on three ways our work promotes public health:


Our Very Brief Interventions (VBI) study focuses on training nurses to deliver a pedometer intervention during the NHS Health Checks. We were surprised that approximately 50% of the nurses we worked with were unsure of the UK Physical Activity Guidelines. So, how did the PCU staff fare when we asked them the same question…that’s a story for another time! For those of you left in suspense, I will put you out of your misery: adults in the UK should aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity per week, strength training on two days per week and minimise the time spent sitting. Our VBI uses behaviour change techniques to train nurses and the intervention itself aims to help people increase physical activity to achieve these recommendations.


Picture the scene: Donna and Jo are two friends who are pregnant and struggling to give up because they don’t have enough support, don’t have the time to see the smoking adviser, are stressed out and fed up with being judged by people. Along comes Kate and her mate MiQuit – a personalised text messaging service to support you to quit. It ‘knows’ exactly what you find hard about smoking, how motivated you are and patients sometimes say it is as if someone is there for you all the time. The best thing is that the evidence shows that MiQuit may increase quit rates in pregnant smokers when provided alongside routine NHS cessation care.


Whether you take medication or not, everyone can understand how hard it can be to remember them and why many people don’t follow the regime prescribed for them. What tablet is taken when? What does this pill do? It is so common for life to get in the way of medication taking that approximately 50% of people do not take their medication as prescribed (Brown and Bussell, 2011). That is where we come in! Our video showed a heavily disguised member of our team receiving an example phone call from a personalised voice messaging intervention. The intervention aims to help people build a medication-taking routine so all calls are tailored to each person’s needs and routine. Evidence is beginning to indicate that personalised voice messages could deliver improvements in medication adherence.

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