Public health experts launch Melbourne Centre for Behaviour Change to discuss challenges

L-R: Victoria University Deputy Vice-Chancellor People & Organisation Professor Peter Radoll; Melbourne Centre for Behaviour Change (MCBC) Director Professor Iain Walker; MCBC Deputy Director Associate Professor Michelle Jongenelis; University College London Centre for Behaviour Change Director Professor of Health Psychology Susan Michie; Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton; Public Health Association of Australia CEO Professor Terry Slevin; Head of School Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences Professor Rob Hester.

Behavioural science has the power to help overcome some of the world’s biggest challenges, leading public health experts have said at the launch of a new centre.

The Melbourne Centre for Behaviour Change will provide an integrated approach to all aspects of behaviour change, harnessing research and education to produce sustainable, durable changes in behaviours, policies, and practices to enhance lives, livelihoods, and environments.

Located at the University's Parkville campus, Melbourne Centre for Behaviour Change members and partners form a vital component of the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences’ research and industry engagement slate.

Behaviour change science is a multi-faceted discipline that seeks to improve understandings of the underlying mechanisms of human behaviour in order to affect positive change. The field has considerable potential to be used in the arsenal of public health communication and policymaking.

Melbourne Centre for Behaviour Change Director Professor Iain Walker believes the time is right to incorporate cognitive, emotional, and social factors into decision-making.

“As we continue to battle bushfires, floods, and the COVID-19 pandemic, science and evidence-based policymaking have never been more essential. The last few years have highlighted the critical importance of behavioural science in dealing with the complex issues facing society.” Professor Walker said.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton uses the ongoing pandemic to illustrate how behavioural science can create positive outcomes for society.

“Lives were undoubtedly saved during the pandemic thanks to the way Victorians responded to calls to adopt preventive health measures. This is an example of why behavioural change is a key to better health. We can use smoking, seat belts, and solarium legislation as examples of necessary but effective changes,” Professor Sutton said.

Director of the University College London Centre for Behaviour Change Professor Susan Michie was a guest at the Centre’s launch. Professor Michie is Chair of the World Health Organization’s Behavioural Insights and Sciences Technical Advisory Group, participated in the Lancet’s COVID-19 Commission, and served as an expert advisor on the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Group in Emergencies.

Professor Michie's insightful keynote at the launch provided the audience with a peek behind the curtain of the United Kingdom’s COVID-19 response, and commended the University for its investment in Australia’s first centre for behaviour change.

“The pandemic presented us with an opportunity for greater action on prevention. The Melbourne Centre for Behaviour Change will play a pivotal role in bringing together diverse stakeholders to develop practical and effective behaviour change strategies that are rooted in the latest evidence from our field,” Professor Michie said.

More information is available on the Melbourne Centre for Behaviour Change website.