The goal is to elucidate determinants of health behaviours, estimate the impact of these behaviours on chronic disease outcomes, and develop and evaluate individual and population-level interventions that modify behaviours to promote health and prevent disease.
To define the wider determinants of risk behaviours, we study datasets throughout the lifecourse, drawing on health psychology, neuroscience, and behavioural economics to understand the basis for behaviour cued by environments and social patterning, with implications for our intervention studies.
Our cohort studies have suggested that a combination of four health behaviours in adults is associated with a 14 year greater life expectancy (not smoking, moderate intake of alcohol, physical activity, consumption of more than 5 servings of fruit and vegetables daily) (PLoS Medicine 2008).
Our meta-analysis has shown that higher levels of physical activity in adults attenuate the influence of FTO(the fat mass and obesity associated gene), the strongest known genetic susceptibility factor for obesity (PLoS Medicine 2011).
Our meta-analysis has shown that physical activity promotion in primary care to sedentary adults resulted in sustained increases in physical activity levels (BMJ 2012). However, our randomised trial in sedentary individuals at familial risk of diabetes showed that a theory-based behaviour intervention was no more effective than an advice leaflet for promotion of physical activity (Lancet 2008).
Our trials have shown that tailored smoking cessation messages delivered by post increase the number of smokers who try to quit, and that for web based information, tailoring did not appear to increase the effectiveness of messages encouraging patients to quit.
We are identifying which interventions at the population-level (eg, taxation, legislation, ‘nudging’, environmental changes) are most likely to influence behaviour.
We are developing and evaluating tailored interventions for smoking cessation, physical activity and medication adherence focusing on very brief interventions delivered by health care practitioners and computer-based approaches (eg, self-monitoring, mobile phone texting, smartphone apps).
We have established a portfolio of planned interventions (eg, the Baby Milk Study to evaluate a complex behavioural intervention to avoid excessive formula-milk intake during infancy) and natural experiments (eg, a cohort study to assess the impact of the introduction of the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway on travel and physical activity).