Health, Behavioral Design, and the Built Environment

The National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) recognizes that environmental design at various levels can influence children’s social norms and behaviors related to dietary choices and daily physical activity. One of NCCOR’s goals is to work with complementary partners on initiatives that integrate childhood obesity priorities and promote transdisciplinary research.

The Health, Behavioral Design, and the Built Environment workgroup was formed in 2014 to continue NCCOR’s prior work with the NCCOR Green Health project. The workgroup soon recognized an important gap in the knowledge—how do specific aspects of the built environment actually influence healthy living? The current understanding of these influences is often narrowly restricted and field specific. This workgroup decided that synthesizing the broad based evidence that encompasses behavioral design could help define and describe the processes that lead to human action and that this knowledge could be applied to efforts to foster active living and healthy eating.

Behavioral design as a concept and its application to healthier living has yet to be comprehensively explored or defined. To date, consensus has not been developed on the derivation of behavioral design principles or how they interrelate in application to public health efforts such as obesity prevention.

Throughout Fall 2015 and Spring 2016, NCCOR convened a series of meetings on deriving and applying behavioral design principles to foster active living and healthy eating. The meetings convened a multidisciplinary group of experts to discuss evidence and methods from the key disciplines that inform behavioral design. The discussions from the meetings have helped inform the development of a white paper, which provides an overview of behavioral design and the conceptual domains and their relevance to behavioral design, guide research and practice in developing methods to enable and promote health eating and active living among children, and finally stimulates further discourse on the application of behavioral design.