Government health initiatives challenged by author 

21/11/2008 00:00 

An eminent Psychologist from the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC) has criticised the government’s approach to health education in her latest book, ‘The Psychology of Lifestyle: Promoting Healthy Behaviour.’

In the book, Katie Thirlaway, Head of the Centre for Psychology at UWIC, takes a comprehensive look at the tactics used by the government to change behavioural patterns and improve the lifestyle choices of the UK population since it set clear targets in the 1990s.

“The current focus on informing people about the risks of unhealthy choices and the benefits of healthy choices is unlikely to achieve positive lifestyle change,” said Katie.

“The majority of people in the UK know what a healthy lifestyle is so the continuing focus on health education, including a recent government initiative to use pictures of diseased livers on wine bottles to prevent excessive drinking, is a mis-use of resources. 

“Health education requires people to be future orientated and invest in unpalatable changes to their lifestyle in the present for long term future health.  The majority of people are not future-orientated and do not make such investments.  Furthermore, most lifestyle behaviours are habitual, not under conscious control and difficult to change,” she added.

In the innovative text, which is co-authored by Domonic Upton from the University of Worcester, the authors argue that future investments in the lifestyle change need to focus on preventing young people establishing unhealthy habits initially and for those already established in unhealthy lifestyle there is a need to support the establishment of health habits using psychological techniques to build motivation and self esteem.

Notes to Editors

1. ‘The Psychology of Lifestyle: Promoting Healthy Behaviour’ by Katie Thirlaway and Domonic Upton will be released on November 29th and can be pre-ordered at Amazon.

2. Having joined UWIC in 1999, Katie is now Programme Director of UWIC’s British Psychological Society accredited MSc in Health Psychology.

3. Katie is an expert in perception and communication of risk and behavioural change.

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