UK’s “nudge unit” releases first report on healthcare

UK govt. set up a nudge unit (called Behavioural Insight Team) to use behavioral economics findings to improve things in UK.

The team released its first report (HT: Nudges blog) – Applying behavioural insight to health.

The paper, written by the new Behavioural Insights Team in the Cabinet Office, draws on insights from behavioural science and behavioural economics and shows ways in which health improvements can be made without resorting to legislation or costly programmes.

The paper sets out a number of examples where local authorities, charities, government and private sector organisations are developing responses that encourage healthier behaviours. It also announces a number of new initiatives introduced by the Behavioural Insights Team in partnership with other organisations:

  • A smoking cessation pilot beginning in early 2011. This will use encourage participants to make commitments to quit smoking (for example, by signing a contract) and will reward those who pass regular smoking tests. The pilot will be run by Boots, with the support of the Behavioural Insights Team and the Department of Health
  • A system of ‘prompted choice’ on organ donor registration will be introduced to the DVLA online application form for renewing and applying for driving licenses. This will require applicants to state whether or not they wish to become an organ donor. Where this has been introduced in other countries, it has significantly increased the number of organ donors. If the DVLA scheme proves successful, it will be rolled out to other areas.

Hmm. Al Roth will like this linking of organ donor registration with driving licences.

Further it points some decisions have already been taken in the past based on behavioral insights:

The Coalition Government announced their commitment to encourage, support and enable people to make better choices themselves in the Coalition Agreement. The Coalition Government has previously announced a number of initiatives which draw upon behavioural insights in support of government objectives. These include:

  • Drawing on these insights, the Behavioural Insights Team together with DoH, DWP and CLG is working with the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead – one of the four Big Society ‘vanguard communities’ announced by the Prime Minister in July 2010 – to develop a reciprocal time credit scheme to help catalyse more peer-to-peer provision of social care.
  • The introduction of seven day cooling off periods for those taking up Store Cards, in order to offer greater protection for consumers
  • Encouraging homeowners to introduce energy efficiency measures (often in ways that saves money) through better and more targeted information for homeowners
  • Changes to the pension system to one that requires citizens to ‘opt-out’ rather than an opt-out system, to be introduced in 2012. When these systems have been introduced elsewhere, they have helped to increase saving rates dramatically

Then they are planning to nudge people into paying taxes etc.

I have not read the report. It looks good upfront. After showing short-termism behavior its fiscal policy, UK is trying to be innovative in other areas. May be it can use nudges to avoid short-term budget fixes as well!!

Independent writes on this. Belfast Telegraph as well..

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4 Responses to “UK’s “nudge unit” releases first report on healthcare”

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