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Behaviour change techniques: the development and evaluation of a taxonomic method for reporting and describing behaviour change interventions (a suite of five studies involving consensus methods, randomised controlled trials and analysis of qualitative data)

Health Technology Assessment, No. 19.99

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Author Information
Southampton (UK): NIHR Journals Library; .

Headline

The study found that the developed taxonomy (Behaviour Change Technique Taxonomy version 1) provides a methodology for identifying content of complex behaviour change interventions and a foundation for international cross-disciplinary collaboration for developing more effective interventions to improve health.

Abstract

Background:

Meeting global health challenges requires effective behaviour change interventions (BCIs). This depends on advancing the science of behaviour change which, in turn, depends on accurate intervention reporting. Current reporting often lacks detail, preventing accurate replication and implementation. Recent developments have specified intervention content into behaviour change techniques (BCTs) – the ‘active ingredients’, for example goal-setting, self-monitoring of behaviour. BCTs are ‘the smallest components compatible with retaining the postulated active ingredients, i.e. the proposed mechanisms of change. They can be used alone or in combination with other BCTs’ (Michie S, Johnston M. Theories and techniques of behaviour change: developing a cumulative science of behaviour change. Health Psychol Rev 2012;6:1–6). Domain-specific taxonomies of BCTs have been developed, for example healthy eating and physical activity, smoking cessation and alcohol consumption. We need to build on these to develop an internationally shared language for specifying and developing interventions. This technology can be used for synthesising evidence, implementing effective interventions and testing theory. It has enormous potential added value for science and global health.

Objective:

(1) To develop a method of specifying content of BCIs in terms of component BCTs; (2) to lay a foundation for a comprehensive methodology applicable to different types of complex interventions; (3) to develop resources to support application of the taxonomy; and (4) to achieve multidisciplinary and international acceptance for future development.

Design and participants:

Four hundred participants (systematic reviewers, researchers, practitioners, policy-makers) from 12 countries engaged in investigating, designing and/or delivering BCIs. Development of the taxonomy involved a Delphi procedure, an iterative process of revisions and consultation with 41 international experts; hierarchical structure of the list was developed using inductive ‘bottom-up’ and theory-driven ‘top-down’ open-sort procedures (n = 36); training in use of the taxonomy (1-day workshops and distance group tutorials) (n = 161) was evaluated by changes in intercoder reliability and validity (agreement with expert consensus); evaluating the taxonomy for coding interventions was assessed by reliability (intercoder; test–retest) and validity (n = 40 trained coders); and evaluating the taxonomy for writing descriptions was assessed by reliability (intercoder; test–retest) and by experimentally testing its value (n = 190).

Results:

Ninety-three distinct, non-overlapping BCTs with clear labels and definitions formed Behaviour Change Technique Taxonomy version 1 (BCTTv1). BCTs clustered into 16 groupings using a ‘bottom-up’ open-sort procedure; there was overlap between these and groupings produced by a theory-driven, ‘top-down’ procedure. Both training methods improved validity (both p < 0.05), doubled the proportion of coders achieving competence and improved confidence in identifying BCTs in workshops (both p < 0.001) but did not improve intercoder reliability. Good intercoder reliability was observed for 80 of the 93 BCTs. Good within-coder agreement was observed after 1 month (p < 0.001). Validity was good for 14 of 15 BCTs in the descriptions. The usefulness of BCTTv1 to report descriptions of observed interventions had mixed results.

Conclusions:

The developed taxonomy (BCTTv1) provides a methodology for identifying content of complex BCIs and a foundation for international cross-disciplinary collaboration for developing more effective interventions to improve health. Further work is needed to examine its usefulness for reporting interventions.

Funding:

This project was funded by the Medical Research Council Ref: G0901474/1. Funding also came from the Peninsula Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care.

Contents

Article history

This issue of the Health Technology Assessment journal series contains a project commissioned/managed by the Methodology research programme (MRP). The Medical Research Council (MRC) is working with NIHR to deliver the single joint health strategy and the MRP was launched in 2008 as part of the delivery model. MRC is lead funding partner for MRP and part of this programme is the joint MRC–NIHR funding panel ‘The Methodology Research Programme Panel’.

To strengthen the evidence base for health research, the MRP oversees and implements the evolving strategy for high-quality methodological research. In addition to the MRC and NIHR funding partners, the MRP takes into account the needs of other stakeholders including the devolved administrations, industry R&D, and regulatory/advisory agencies and other public bodies. The MRP funds investigator-led and needs-led research proposals from across the UK. In addition to the standard MRC and RCUK terms and conditions, projects commissioned/managed by the MRP are expected to provide a detailed report on the research findings and may publish the findings in the HTA journal, if supported by NIHR funds.

The authors have been wholly responsible for all data collection, analysis and interpretation, and for writing up their work. The HTA editors and publisher have tried to ensure the accuracy of the authors’ report and would like to thank the reviewers for their constructive comments on the draft document. However, they do not accept liability for damages or losses arising from material published in this report.

Declared competing interests of authors

Charles Abraham acknowledges funding from the UK National Institute for Health Research and the Peninsula Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care.

Copyright © Queen’s Printer and Controller of HMSO 2015. This work was produced by Michie et al. under the terms of a commissioning contract issued by the Secretary of State for Health. This issue may be freely reproduced for the purposes of private research and study and extracts (or indeed, the full report) may be included in professional journals provided that suitable acknowledgement is made and the reproduction is not associated with any form of advertising. Applications for commercial reproduction should be addressed to: NIHR Journals Library, National Institute for Health Research, Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre, Alpha House, University of Southampton Science Park, Southampton SO16 7NS, UK.

Included under terms of UK Non-commercial Government License.

Bookshelf ID: NBK327619DOI: 10.3310/hta19990

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