Human behaviour poses a “last mile” challenge to ensuring the effectiveness of existing health services and maximizing the impact of available resources. Behavioural economics offers insights on human behaviour and decision-making that can be useful for identifying low-cost behavioural solutions (“nudges”) that increase uptake of health services and promote behaviour change more generally.
In the past decade, a number of governments and health systems globally have used behavioural science and rapid-testing of interventions to improve the efficiency of programs by forming “nudge units” to help develop low-cost interventions that have successfully resulted in behaviour change and improve health care delivery.
With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the University of Witwatersrand’s Health Economics and Epidemiology Research Office (HE2RO) and the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics (CHIBE) are launching Indlela: Behavioural Insights for Better Health (Indlela means “the way” or “the path” in Zulu).
Indlela is the first-of-its-kind unit focused specifically on improving the effectiveness of the public sector in delivering health care and achieving better health outcomes in South Africa. In the unit’s first 3 years, it will focus on expanding the use of behavioural economics within HIV prevention and treatment programs in South Africa. Specifically, it will seek to strengthen the ability of health service delivery providers and key research institutions to develop and test contextually appropriate interventions that are informed by behavioural science principles.
In future years, the unit’s scope will expand beyond HIV to include other pressing public health issues in South Africa.