August 5, 2019 The Foundry

Behaviour change theories are key to changing inactivity

With the obesity epidemic and rise in associated health problems, it’s no secret we should all be moving more. Yet, The World Health Organisation (WHO) still says inactivity remains a global problem and costs the UK around £7.4billion every year.

Sport England’s vision is that ‘everyone, regardless of age, background or level of ability, feels able to engage in sport and physical activity’. They’re investing around £100million of National Lottery funding in 12 pilot scheme areas over four years. But, they need support from partners at a community level to achieve their objectives. And local authorities are facing their own unique set of challenges.

Hurdles for local authorities

The most hard-to-reach people – lower socioeconomic status, the elderly and minority groups – have higher barriers to getting active. Most put it down to lack of time, energy, money or facilities. Which isn’t something that can be solved overnight.

Local governments are facing budget cuts and growing social care demands, which puts pressure on how resources can be allocated. Those that do have funds earmarked to grow engagement in sport and activity, can’t always use the investment to its full potential.

Our conversations with public sector clients show local authorities are struggling to build active communities. Difficulties in managing internal teams and stakeholder expectations. Lack of support to deliver affordable, effective and sustainable campaigns. Not enough time to properly measure and record success to secure future funding.

Building on insights

We’re regularly asked to find more engaging ways to encourage healthier lifestyles and drive long-term behaviour change. For us, this often begins with getting to the heart of the problem. Finding, or building on, insights that bring the community with us on a journey. Rather than preaching, demoralising or demeaning.

Based on a transtheoretical model, there are five stages of behaviour where we can intervene – from not even thinking about activity to contemplating it, planning to do it, getting started and sticking with it.

Strategy needs to focus on a wide range of activities that don’t feel too structured or enforced. Support must be in place to help overcome common barriers and existing facilities need to be advertised to help raise awareness of what’s already available.

Keep it Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely

People are creatures of habit. To really promote change, the required behaviour must feel easy to achieve. Make the idea of activity seem attractive, show that their social groups are already on board and prompt them at times when they’re most likely to respond. Then you’ve a better chance of planting a seed and making it stick, for good.

The Foundry is a strategic communications agency, based in Manchester, delivering fully-integrated marketing campaigns for B2B, B2C and public sector clients.

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