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Reducing SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the UK: A behavioural science approach to identifying options for increasing adherence to social distancing and shielding vulnerable people

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Susan Michie, Robert West, Brooke Rogers, Chris Bonell, James Rubin, Richard Amlot

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Health Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2020

King's Authors


Purpose. To describe and discuss a systematic method for producing a very rapid
response (3 days) to a UK government policy question in the context of reducing SARSCoV-2 transmission.
Methods. A group of behavioural and social scientists advising the UK government on COVID-19 contributed to the analysis and writing of advice through the Government Office for Science. The question was as follows: What are the options for increasing adherence to social distancing (staying at home except for essential journeys and work) and shielding vulnerable people (keeping them at home and away from others)? This was prior to social distancing legislation being implemented. The first two authors produced a draft, based on analysis of the current government guidance and the application of the Behaviour Change Wheel (BCW) framework to identify and evaluate the options.
Results. For promoting social distancing, 10 options were identified for improving
adherence. They covered improvements in ways of achieving the BCW intervention types of education, persuasion, incentivization, and coercion. For promoting shielding of vulnerable people, four options were identified covering the BCW intervention types of incentivization, coercion, and enablement.
Conclusions. Responding to policymakers very rapidly as has been necessary during the COVID-19 pandemic can be facilitated by using a framework to structure the thinking and reporting of multidisciplinary academics and policymakers.

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