“If we don’t deploy behavioral expertise sooner, we simply won’t be able to become a sustainably healthier country,” says Marieke Adriaanse, professor of Behavioral Interventions in Population Health. Traditionally, healthcare has focused primarily on cure and less on prevention. Medicines and medical procedures usually play the leading role in our healthcare. The increase in chronic, often lifestyle-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, require a different approach. To live healthier for longer, behavioral change is needed in people with an unhealthy lifestyle, patients and healthcare and policy professionals.
Changing behavior is complex, takes time and money. And the latter is often lacking. Andrea Evers, professor of Health Psychology: “Everyone agrees wholeheartedly that behavioral expertise should be used alongside other disciplines, but it should not cost anything. It is seen as something that comes naturally, without recognizing that you have to do this from the start. invest to systematically incorporate this knowledge and to make behavioral interventions successful.”
Behavioral experts are now often only asked for a project when the policy has almost been completed. “Behavioral expertise is sometimes reduced to a kind of trick, while understanding behavior and supporting behavior change is very complex,” says Adriaanse. “Research and theoretical models are needed to understand behavior and then apply the right interventions and tools to different groups of people.”
To develop successful policy, it is necessary to analyze what the target group needs. What problems are involved and what is needed to live a healthier life and to maintain it. The target group itself must therefore also be involved in the development of policy interventions. What works in one district may not work in another. Evers: “We know from research that just living in a neighborhood with many fast food chains ensures that people live unhealthily. The raised finger and good advice are then of little use. It is therefore very important to take into account the environment in which people live and what obstacles people experience in this. Then interventions can be developed that take the influence of the environment into account.”
In addition, once policy is in place, it must be continuously evaluated. Situations, needs and technology are also constantly changing. Think of the corona pandemic when no one could go to the gym anymore. And what was the hottest technology five years ago is now outdated.
By: National Care Guide