Tuesday, February 01, 2011

BMJ: Judging Nudging

An article in the current issue of the BMJ asks whether nudging can improve population health.

It provides a good overview of the topic and interventions in the area of public health. It is largely positive but bemoans the lack of evidence on the effectiveness (and cost-effectiveness) of such interventions. The adjoined ed note attempts to explain the new political interest in nudge-policy in the UK, though this seems rather cynical. Without asserting anything about the motives of the current UK government, I believe they deserve credit for their willingness to engage with fresh thinking and approaches to age-old human problems.

Here in Ireland, although nudge philosophy and practice seems to have permeated some sections of social policy, most notably in the area pensions, there remains a complete dearth of such thinking in the health policy domain; which largely focuses on issues surrounding the delivery of emergency and restorative medical care. The idea that health and illness is fundamentally rooted in life outside of our hospital waiting rooms and GP clinics has never been given serious political, or media, attention. These innovative ideas of using policy to actively sustain, and maintain health in our everyday lives seems to have, so far, attracted little or no attention in Ireland.

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