Altering micro-environments to change population health behaviour: Towards an evidence base for choice architecture interventions
Background: The idea that behaviour can be influenced at population level by altering the environments within which people make choices (choice architecture) has gained traction in policy circles. However, empirical evidence to support this idea is limited, especially its application to changing health behaviour. We propose an evidence-based definition and typology of choice architecture interventions that have been implemented within small-scale micro-environments and evaluated for their effects on four key sets of health behaviours: diet, physical activity, alcohol and tobacco use. Discussion. We argue that the limitations of the evidence base are due not simply to an absence of evidence, but also to a prior lack of definitional and conceptual clarity concerning applications of choice architecture to public health intervention. This has hampered the potential for systematic assessment of existing evidence. By seeking to address this issue, we demonstrate how our definition and typology have enabled systematic identification and preliminary mapping of a large body of available evidence for the effects of choice architecture interventions. We discuss key implications for further primary research, evidence synthesis and conceptual development to support the design and evaluation of such interventions. Summary. This conceptual groundwork provides a foundation for future research to investigate the effectiveness of choice architecture interventions within micro-environments for changing health behaviour. The approach we used may also serve as a template for mapping other under-explored fields of enquiry. © 2013 Hollands et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.