Using behavioural economics to improve sexual health

Behavioural economics is an exciting discipline that blends psychological insights into human behaviour to explain economic decision-making. Research has led governments to create ‘nudges’ to help improve decision making by finding ways to tweak human behaviour in attempt to improve their welfare in a predictable, easy and cheap way. With evidence that using ‘nudge’ messages has been effective in reducing alcohol use, improving enrolment in paediatric weight management programs and improving hospital appointment attendance, an exciting pilot project between the University of Warwick and Monash University’s Melbourne Sexual Health Centre is being explored.

The project will take place in two parts. Firstly, to help improve STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) testing rates, the Central Clinical School at the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre will run a pilot project to evaluate whether reframing SMS reminder messages impacts on the return-rates of a high-risk STI client group.

Secondly, with Warwick Business School expertise running events known as ‘nudgeathons’ (a 1-2 day event where individuals or teams solve problems using behavioural economic principals), skills and knowledge will be shared to explore how behaviour economics principals can help improve health outcomes.

The collaboration is a win-win for both institutions. The University of Warwick will extend their behavioural economics activities into a new area, as well as to partner with the largest and most research active public sexual health service in Australia. Monash University will benefit from access to world-experts applying behavioural economic principals. Together, the collaboration will complement each other in demonstrating the application of behavioural economics in sexual health, and ultimately provide new insights to improve patient outcomes.

Principle applicants

Dr Ong

Dr Jason Ong

Central Clinical School, Melbourne Sexual Health Centre

Dr Daniel Read

Professor Daniel Read

Department of Behavioural Science Group, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick

Co-applicants

Associate Professor Eric Chow, Central Clinical School, Monash University

Professor Ivo Vlaev, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick