Journal Article

How to promote healthy behaviours in patients? An overview of evidence for behaviour change techniques

Theo van Achterberg, Getty G. J. Huisman-de Waal, Nicole A. B. M. Ketelaar, Rob A. Oostendorp, Johanna E. Jacobs and Hub C. H. Wollersheim

in Health Promotion International

Volume 26, issue 2, pages 148-162
Published in print June 2011 | ISSN: 0957-4824
Published online August 2010 | e-ISSN: 1460-2245 | DOI:

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To identify the evidence for the effectiveness of behaviour change techniques, when used by health-care professionals, in accomplishing health-promoting behaviours in patients. Reviews were used to extract data at a study level. A taxonomy was used to classify behaviour change techniques. We included 23 systematic reviews: 14 on smoking cessation, 6 on physical exercise, and 2 on healthy diets and 1 on both exercise and diets. None of the behaviour change techniques demonstrated clear effects in a convincing majority of the studies in which they were evaluated. Techniques targeting knowledge (n = 210 studies) and facilitation of behaviour (n = 172) were evaluated most frequently. However, self-monitoring of behaviour (positive effects in 56% of the studies), risk communication (52%) and use of social support (50%) were most often identified as effective. Insufficient insight into appropriateness of technique choice and quality of technique delivery hinder precise conclusions. Relatively, however, self-monitoring of behaviour, risk communication and use of social support are most effective. Health professionals should avoid thinking that providing knowledge, materials and professional support will be sufficient for patients to accomplish change and consider alternative strategies which may be more effective.

Keywords: health behaviour; health promotion; patient care; review

Journal Article.  7361 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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