Behaviour Improvements in Healthcare and Safety

Behaviour Improvements in Healthcare and Safety

It is recognised that behavioural change for health or safety saves countless lives. Behavioural change interventions can undo the harms from smoking, poor diet, alcohol and drug use, which account for approximately on third of global disability and mortality. Other challenges for public health and public safety, such as antimicrobial resistance, mental health problems, the transmission of infectious diseases; and food, water and transport safety, also depend on behavioural change.  It is therefore imperative for health improvement that effective and consistent methods of changing behaviour are developed and implemented.

Prior to the research outlined here, there was a vast and growing literature of behaviour change interventions but no standardised scientific language for defining and reporting their components. This meant that evidence from different behavioural trials could not be reliably interpreted, synthesised, or effectively implemented into practice.

Research conducted by Professors Johnstone and Francis from the University of Aberdeen, in partnership with University College London, has transformed the way in which behavioural change interventions are developed, reported, and interpreted. This has led to the development of a standardised, shared taxonomy to describe complex interventions used to tackle behaviour change, and this taxonomy has provided a practical approach to facilitate and evaluate behavioural change interventions to improve public health.

This research has led to four key impacts: creating a shared standard to report behavioural change techniques; professional training for health and social care practitioners in the UK and Africa; online and digital health; and improved safety for food, water and transport. This taxonomy is used by government, charities and commercial companies to achieve improved health, wellbeing and safety.


Professor Marie Johnstone’s profile:

NICE website:

Online training:

UCL website:


Michie, S., Richardson, M., Johnston, M., Abraham, C., Francis, J., Hardeman, W., Eccles, M., Cane, J. and Wood, C. (2013). The Behavior Change Technique Taxonomy (v1) of 93 Hierarchically Clustered Techniques: Building an International Consensus for the Reporting of Behavior Change Interventions. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, [online] 46(1), pp.81-95.

Cane, J., Richardson, M., Johnston, M., Ladha, R. and Michie, S. (2014). From lists of behaviour change techniques (BCTs) to structured hierarchies: Comparison of two methods of developing a hierarchy of BCTs. British Journal of Health Psychology, [online] 20(1), pp.130-150.

Wood, C., Richardson, M., Johnston, M., Abraham, C., Francis, J., Hardeman, W. and Michie, S. (2014). Applying the behaviour change technique (BCT) taxonomy v1: a study of coder training. Translational Behavioral Medicine, [online] 5(2), pp.134-148.

Abraham, C., Wood, C., Johnston, M., Francis, J., Hardeman, W., Richardson, M. and Michie, S. (2015). Reliability of Identification of Behavior Change Techniques in Intervention Descriptions. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, [online] 49(6), pp.885-900.

Michie, S., Wood, C., Johnston, M., Abraham, C., Francis, J. and Hardeman, W. (2015). Behaviour change techniques: the development and evaluation of a taxonomic method for reporting and describing behaviour change interventions (a suite of five studies involving consensus methods, randomised controlled trials and analysis of qualitative data). Health Technology Assessment, 19(99), pp.1-188.

Dixon D, Johnston M. MAP: A mnemonic for mapping BCTs to three routes to behaviour change  (2020). British Journal of Health Psychology, 25,1086-1101.;10.1111/bjhp.12458. doi:10.1111/bjhp.12458