Personal Professional Development (Public Health and Primary Care) / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

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Course unit details:
Behaviour Change and Public Health

Unit code POPH65062
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Division of Population Health, Health Services Research and Primary Care
Available as a free choice unit? No


Behaviour change for health, especially public health, has become one of the most prominent topics of discussion within academic and lay circles in recent times. Behaviour change encompasses all aspects of human behaviour and how they are linked to overall health including physical and mental health. Behaviour change has endless applications within and beyond health with research concentrating on how we can change individual behaviours to achieve optimal health outcomes and how to sustain changes in behaviour over a critical amount of time for behaviours to become habits. The need for a specific module in behaviour change for public health arises from the expanding interest and research on behaviour change in public health. This is a relatively new area but has had some major indicative’s which have been taken on not just in public health but across different fields. Major public organizations including the World Health Organization, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and Public Health England have either recently published specific guidelines or are in the process of collating information to form guidelines on the use of behaviour change and behaviour science in public health. Moreover, more and more industry players are focusing on behaviour change creating an ever-increasing demand on this area. Finally, a significant number of behaviour change consultancies (Behaviour Insights Team, Behavioural Architects, The Decision Lab etc.) have appeared in a short period of time outlining the growth potential in this area. 


This unit aims to: 
  • Introduce behavioural science within the context of Public Health
  • Develop students understanding of how public health interventions can change behaviour (including the potential unintended consequences of this), and the theory behind behaviour change in public health
  • Develop students understanding of how individual behaviours can contribute to public health issues

Learning outcomes

Category of outcome Students should be able to:
A. Knowledge and understanding

A1 (KNOWLEDGE) Define behaviour change theories relating to health

A2 (COMPREHENSION) Explain differences between theories with emphasis on their application to public health

B. Intellectual skills

B1 (APPLICATION) Apply behaviour science and behaviour change techniques in public health intervention design

B2 (ANALYSIS) Analyse and debate the use of behaviour change and its impacts 

C. Practical skills C1 (SYNTHESIS) Develop behaviour change interventions using robust theoretical and methodological approaches focusing on the COM-B model
D. Transferable skills and personal qualities D1 (EVALUATE) Appraise and evaluate behaviour change interventions within public health



  • How individual behaviours can contribute to public health issues
  • How public health interventions can change behaviour (and the theory behind this)
  • Understand the key methodological considerations around behaviour change/behaviour change interventions (for example the Behaviour Change Wheel)
  • Developing a Behaviour change intervention for a public health issue
  • Evaluating real world behaviour change interventions in public health 
  • Inequalities in health and behaviour change
  • The unintended consequences of behaviour change on public health 
  • Engaging the public and differing specialities in the design and implementation of behaviour change interventions

Teaching and learning methods

This unit will include text provided by the tutors, online videos/podcasts/recorded lectures plus required and additional reading material including articles and relevant literature. Reflective study tasks, and topic-based discussions hosted on Blackboard will also be used alongside reading material and core course content. An alternative way of assessing students is being proposed for the mid-term assessment. The mid-term assessment will include group work, where the group will write a short scientific report on a specified topic. This will be subject to anonymised peer review from another group. In addition you will be able to feedback on your team by completing a template which will provide a score and comments to each member of the team. The final assessment will include a 3,000 word essay on a specific public health issue where students will require to the issue, the public health importance/relevance and then take a series of structured and evidence-based steps (i.e. use of appropriate frameworks and methodology) to define and design a behaviour change intervention to tackle their chosen issue. Material provided will be diverse in nature. Peer-reviewed publications will be highlighted (and accessed through the University library). Media articles and videos will also be included to demonstrate the implications and impacts of behaviour change in health both from research carried out and behaviour change implemented in the real world.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students will critically analyse the principal methods and theoretical approaches to behaviour change within public health using robust, evidence-based and theory-driven practical behaviour change approaches.
Project management
Students will be required to consider the development, planning, and evaluation of behaviour change programs using appropriate behaviour change techniques for a given public health program.
Planning and Organisation, Time management, Action planning, Adaptability, Self-awareness, and Personal impact-confidence.

Assessment methods

Assessment task


Weighting within Unit

Midterm Group Assignment

1,500 words equivalent


Final Assignment

3,000 words equivalent



Feedback methods

Students will be provided with personalised feedback for their mid-term and final summative assignments, within 15 working days for mid-term assignments and 20 working days for final submission.
Further opportunities for formative feedback (on non-assessed work) will also be provided during a course unit.

Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 150

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Michaela Goodwin Unit coordinator
Georgios Kitsaras Unit coordinator

Additional notes

If you have any questions about the content of this unit, please contact the course unit leaders, Michaela Goodwin ( and Georgios Kitsasas (, via email. If you have any other queries, please contact the PGT programme administrators via email on

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