MPH Occupational Health / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

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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

  • Develop an understanding of the basics of behavioural science (transtheoretical model, stages of change, theory of planned behaviour etc.) and latest behaviour change theories and techniques (EAST, MINDSPACE etc.)
  • Be able to describe and apply psychological principles, concepts,
  • theories and evidence to health, illness, and public health interventions / practice
  • Develop an understanding of which aspects of health can be
  • influenced/impacted by individual behaviours and how it can be influenced by the behaviour of others and environment. 
  • Appraise and evaluate research within behaviour change using examples 
  • Appraise behaviour change interventions within public health, including assessing effectiveness, efficiency and acceptability including measures of structure, process, service quality, and health outcome
  • Analyze the debate around the use of behaviour change and its impacts (both positive and negative) and evaluate the impact on health   
  • Develop an understanding of how different specialties can be involved in the design and implementation of behaviour change interventions, engaging the public in dissemination and an understanding of the barriers and opportunities within these types of interventions.  
  • Develop an understanding on the methodological approaches for the
  • use of behaviour science and behaviour change in intervention design (COM-B, TDF framework etc.) and how to successfully develop a behaviour change intervention
  • Apply their understanding to evaluate various behaviour change interventions used within public health  
  • Apply the principles of evidence-based practice
  • Understand the ethical issues around implement behaviour change interventions and any unintended consequences 
  • Understand the various methods which can be applied within their own work or research area which may improve 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. Mid-term assessment will include a short scientific report on a specified topic that will be subject to anonymised peer review to award marks. 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 (if relevant

Midterm 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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