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Changing behaviour: a health practitioner's view

Jane Deville-Almond
Nurse Consultant/Freelance Journalist

Hear from Jane DeVille-Almond, a nurse consultant who is working to change behaviour by changing the way clinics operate

With nursing experience of over 40 years, Jane’s spent the last 20 years working in the area of behaviour change, trying to help people understand how their actions make them healthy or unhealthy.

She shared her views on why behaviour change is important, how to successfully drive change, and what she believes are the main ways for Pharma and physicians to help.

 

Why is behaviour change important?

It’s really important that we understand why behaviour change is so crucial to health. First, if we don’t look after our health we’ll bankrupt the NHS (in the UK) and, in my opinion, this is a national treasure that we need to look after so it’s here for future generations.

Second, health is important for social well-being and happiness. I think the healthier people are the happier they are; and the happier people are the happier society is.

And finally, it’s vital people understand that they’re born with one body. You only have that one body throughout your life and it’s really important to look after it. Because once our body breaks, it becomes very difficult to mend, so we need to change our behaviour very early on so that we are embedded in the behaviour that gives us the best chance at a healthy life.

 

What do you think helps drive successful behaviour change?

The main thing with behaviour change is that it’s not just isolated to you as an individual; it’s the whole context of the people around you. So behaviour change isn’t just a one-way thing. If you’re going to change your behaviour, quite often the people around you have to change their behaviour to support you. It might be that you can change a whole group’s behaviour: in your workplace, or in your social environment, or maybe even in your community. So, your behaviour change could impact on the people around you, which is really crucial. When driving change for larger groups, you often find key influencers who can help drive the change, as they’re leaders that people want to follow.

 

From your perspective, what are the main opportunities for Pharma to add value ‘beyond the pill’?

The main opportunity I see for pharmaceutical companies is to ensure we have a standardisation of information, good clear resources, so that we’re all delivering and living under the same philosophy of behaviour change. Also that nurses, doctors, healthcare professionals – anyone working in the environment – have access to proper core training programmes.

 

What role can healthcare professionals play?

Healthcare professionals really need to get more creative in how they’re engaging with people. They can’t just sit in their offices and wait for people to come to them. They need to go out and meet people on the ground because that’s the only way you really understand what people’s lives are about. Unless you engage with people and walk in their shoes, you’ll never get the true story; when people come to you, they’ll tell you what they think you want to hear. When you go out and see the reality for yourself, you’ve got a much better chance of understanding why people either can or can’t achieve something that they’ve set in their goals.


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