The people around us

I’ve talked about it here before, but when I first get involved in any behaviour change or health promotion challenge, I like to start by looking up and out. For me, this means looking up beyond the individual and out toward the social or surrounding influences that contribute to our behaviour. Our attitudes aren’t fixed, but move around depending on the context in which we make decisions. As we bump into these other influences, they can reinforce or challenge our behaviour.

When we think beyond the individual, it can open us up to some really interesting and powerful influences on behaviour. Take this effort to tackle domestic violence that launched in India, and has since gone global. Bell Baiao or “Ring the Bell” seeks to bring violence against women to a halt by calling on men and boys to ring a door bell to speak out.

Or this effort from Kenya focused on reducing reckless driving, particularly with local bus drivers. The idea focused not on the driver, but on the passengers – encouraging them to complain when they felt endangered. Results of the trial, called Heckle and Chide are here.

Ultimately these efforts focused on the same end goal of behaviour change. But they re-framed the issue and attacked the challenge from another angle.

It’s easy to think about the ways this might inspire other behaviour change approaches. For example, how might we take on the issue of people talking on their cell phone while driving? Instead of focusing on the individual driver/ talker, we could engage the people around them. For example, it’s fairly easy to tell when chatting with someone on their cell whether they are driving. So messaging could encourage people who “receive” calls from people driving to ask them to pull over, or call back when off the road.

What about other health promotion challenges – including obesity, binge drinking or smoking? How might we look at the surrounding influences and the power of the social to change behaviour?

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One thought on “The people around us

  1. Such a timely post for this individual, Martin! Thank you.

    I’m currently living in Southern Mexico where it’s very normal to have children before one turns 20 and extremely abnormal to have no children at all by 40. I see this as a factor in a machismo culture, but it’s not as straight-forward as that only. Where is the choice? Where is the responsibility to oneself? What role does education play? There are issues of familial love, responsibility, and care. I don’t know entirely what I’m trying to say, but you’ve got me thinking…Thanks for that, d

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