At the International Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Summit held last month in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, keynote speaker David T. Neal spoke about considering habits when implementing programs to change behavior.
Neal is the founder and managing partner at Catalyst Behavioral Sciences, LLC. His talk, entitled The Habitual Brain: Advances in Creating Disruptive and Sticky Behavior Change, discussed habits in terms of strength. He noted that 45 percent of what people do occurs every day with little or no thought.
These strong habits are things like hand washing before cooking or after using the bathroom. Other behaviors that can be looked at as habits happen less frequently, like vaccinations.
Those working in SBCC programs should understand the need for different approaches for daily habits versus those less frequent ones, he said. One approach is to disrupt bad habits and replace them with new healthy behaviors. Disruptions can be things lie a change in environment (moving or seasonal work) or they could be adding or removing “friction” related to a certain behavior.
An example of adding friction would be banning smoking indoors, forcing people to go outside to smoke. Removing friction to advance a healthy behavior is something like prepackaged medicines that take any guesswork out of dosing, etc.
Neal concluded by encouraging participants at the Summit’s opening plenary session to include habit thinking into their existing SBCC programs.