Centre for Behaviour Change


Responding to Covid-19: contributions from the CBC

Behavioural Science is at the heart of the COVID-19 response. Our CBC staff have been busy applying their expertise to support the response to the coronavirus pandemic both nationally and internationally.

Identifying behavioural strategies to reduce COVID-19 transmission, including adhering to restrictions, adopting personal protective behaviours such as the use of PPE, physical distancing, hand hygiene and being vaccinated is critical for reducing deaths, preserving capacity within the health and social care system and safeguarding the economic health of nations. (West, Michie, Rubin, Amlôt, 2020).

How the CBC is generating and translating evidence to help manage Covid-19

The CBC is collaborating with researchers from a range of disciplines including data and public health scientists, virologists, epidemiologists, bio-ethicists, statisticians, and geographers. Its Director, Professor Susan Michie, is part of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies and of Independent SAGE, and has acted as consultant to the World Health Organization on COVID-19, and served as an Expert Witness to the House of Commons, House of Lords, the Government of Ireland and the Welsh Assembly. Professor Michie regularly provides behavioural science-based advice and perspectives to the broadcasting and press media. Professor Michie, along with Professor Henry Potts from UCL and colleagues for KCL and Public Health England, have been conducting the CORSAIR study, funded by NIHR and commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care. UK-wide weekly survey data on public worry, concern and awareness of risks and preventative measures in relation to the coronavirus have been analysed in real time to inform Government policy and communication.

Examples of Covid-19 projects include:

A Virological Analysis and Behavioural Study of Health Care Workers During the Pandemic


Funder: Medical Research Council (MRC)
Duration: 2020 - 2021
Partners: UCLH, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health
CBC leads: Professor Susan Michie & Dr Fabiana Lorencatto
CBC researchers: Dr Elise Crayton & Dr Carly Meyer

COVID-19 can spread quickly within both hospital and care home settings, placing patients, health and social care workers at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. The CBC has been leading a study, as part of a broader COVID-19 research programme, investigating healthcare workers’ experiences of working during the COVID-19 pandemic and the extent to which they enact protective behaviours such as use of PPE and physical distancing. We are collecting data in A&E, ICU, Acute Medical Unit, Haematology, and Infectious Diseases across two hospitals in England. Our findings on the individual, socio-cultural and environmental factors influencing personal  protective behaviours in the workplace will generate recommendations for strategies to change such behaviours in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 and improve preparedness and response to future outbreaks.

Building evidence to support the management of COVID-19 in care home


Duration: 2020 - 2021
Partners: UCL Institute of Health Informatics
CBC leads: Dr Fabiana Lorencatto
CBC researcher: Dr Gillian Forbes

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportional impact on older adults. We are collecting data from more than 800 care home managers across the UK about how COVID-19 has impacted on care home staff, resident care, and ways of working. We have also investigated personal protective behaviours by care home staff (e.g. physical distancing and use of PPE), drawing on the COM-B model of behaviour. These findings have formed the basis of policy recommendations for managing the response to COVID-19 during the second wave of the pandemic and will also support future preparedness planning.


Advice to UK Government and the World Health Organisation (WHO)

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) provides scientific and technical advice to support government decision makers during emergencies. Professor Susan Michie and Professor Robert West are participants in the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B). Published guidance can be accessed here. One of the outputs led by Professors Michie and West, using the COM-B model and BCW framework to structure thinking and recommendations for policymakers, can be seen at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bjhp.12428.

Professors Michie and West are also members of Independent SAGE, which provides weekly data updates, reports on a wide range of COVID-19-related topics, and independent advice to the UK Government and other audiences to inform their response to COVID-19. It holds weekly conferences with the press and public live streamed on YouTube. Reports produced by Independent SAGE are available here.

Professor Michie has provided expert evidence and advice to:

  • House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Inquiry: Witness in session on COVID-19 and Immunity Passports.
  • House of Lords Science and Technology Committee Inquiry: Witness in session on COVID-19 and Behavioural Science: the session can be seen here.
  • the Parliament in Ireland
  • the Welsh Assembly
  • National Association of Local Councils.

Professor Michie is also a member of:

  • London’s Transition Board COVID-19 Outbreak Control Strategy Group, and
  • COVID-19 Vaccine Health Equity and Engagement Task and Finish Group

CBC Deputy Director Dr Paul Chadwick is a member of the British Psychological Society’s Behavioural Disease Prevention Taskforce. Chaired by CBC Associate Professor Dr Angel Chater, the taskforce is a hub for behavioural science expertise to support initiatives to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The committee has co-produced 17 guidance documents to support national and local governments to prevent transmission of COVID-19 and limit the impact of the pandemic on physical and psychological health.


Professor Michie is a member of the World Health Organization’s Behavioural Insights and Sciences Technical and Advisory Group and, together with Dr Elizabeth Corker from CBC, have acted as consultants to the Behavioural Insights team, developing a method for supporting countries to use survey and other data to inform policy and to generate actionable recommendations.

Professor Michie is a member of the Lancet Commission on COVID-19 Task Force on Public Health Measures to Suppress the Pandemic.

Working with local government

Dr Chadwick has worked with the Behavioral Insights Unit at Hertfordshire County Council to adapt the Achieving Behaviour Change Guides for Local Authorities to enable rapid response to requests for behavioural science support from teams across the local authority. The processes and tools developed using the guides have enabled the rapid development of behavioural science briefings to inform a range of public health campaigns under the Stay Safe Hertfordshire umbrella such as increasing resilience, prevention of alcohol dependency, and maintaining social distancing in public spaces.

Read our new blog on the activities and projects the CBC team is involved in to combat COVID-19:

Read the blog here