Factors influencing application of behavioural science evidence by public health decision-makers and practitioners, and implications for practice

Kristina Curtis, Emmie Fulton, Katherine Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK recommends behavioural science evidence underpins public health improvement services. In practice, level of implementation varies. This study is the first to explore factors affecting use of behaviour-specific evidence by public health decision-makers and practitioners for design and delivery of health improvement services. Twenty semi-structured interviews were conducted, along with a review of the commissioning cycle with public health decision-makers and practitioners across a range of health improvement fields (e.g. weight management). Interviews were informed and analysed using the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF). Limited comprehension of behaviour change, challenges identifying specific behaviour change strategies and translating research into practice were prevalent. Local authority processes encouraged uptake of evidence to justify solutions as opposed to evidence-driven decision-making. Some decision-makers perceived research evidence may stifle innovation and overwhelm practitioners. Potential facilitators of research use included: ensuring uptake and implementation of evidence is compulsory within commissioning and its potential to show value for money. A strong belief in local evidence and achieving outcomes were identified as barriers to research evidence uptake. Social and environmental challenges included cultural, political, and workload pressures and journal article accessibility. Embedding behavioural science systematically into public health practice requires changes throughout the public health system; from priorities set by national public health leaders to the way in which relevant evidence is disseminated. Framing factors affecting use of behavioural science evidence using the TDF is helpful for identifying the range of interventions and support needed to affect change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-115
Number of pages10
JournalPreventive Medicine Reports
Early online date1 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • Behaviour change
  • Behavioural science
  • Evidence
  • Public health
  • Research translation
  • Theoretical Domains Framework


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