Applying behavioural science to issues of public health in South Africa: The case for social norms intervention

Type: 
Review Article
Number of pages: 
5
Published: 
30 May 2017

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Abstract: 

In the effort to address behavioural risk factors – which contribute significantly to the global burden of disease – there is a growing movement in public health towards the use of interventions informed by behavioural science. These interventions have the benefit of being amenable to testing in randomised controlled trials, are cost-effective and, when scaled up, can have significant public health benefits. A subset of these interventions attempts to change behaviour by shifting social norms perception (what I think everyone else does and thinks). We surveyed the work on social norms intervention and considered its applicability to issues of public health in South Africa. Social norms interventions have widespread and significant potential to address issues of public health in South Africa; policymakers should look to these interventions as cost-effective tools to address key issues. More broadly, we advocate for an expansion of the use of behavioural science in developing public policy in South Africa.

Significance: 
  • The application of behavioural science to issues of public health will contribute to evidence-based policy efforts in South Africa.

Keywords: 

evidence-based intervention; social psychology; tobacco smoking; interpersonal violence; unsafe sex
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