09 Jul, 2020 Last updated: 13 Jul, 2020

In 2014 VicHealth developed the Leading Thinkers initiative to connect international thought leaders with senior policymakers and key local experts.

Dr David Halpern of the UK Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) joined VicHealth as our inaugural Leading Thinker in 2014. He has led BIT since its inception in 2010. Prior to that, David was the founding Director of the Institute for Government and between 2001 and 2007 was the Chief Analyst at the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit in the UK. Before entering government, David held tenure at Cambridge and posts at Oxford and Harvard.

During his two-year residency from 2014-2016, Dr Halpern worked with VicHealth to build knowledge in Behavioural Insights and demonstrate how the approach can result in healthy behaviour change right across Victoria.

Download: Dr David Halpern’s report on his residency, Behavioural insights and healthier lives (PDF, 2.5 MB).


Highlights of Dr Halpern’s residency:

New knowledge about ‘what works’ in getting people to change their health behaviour

Behavioural Insight trials: Seven trials designed for delivery by VicHealth and our partners to gently nudge the public into creating healthier lifestyles. Within 12–15 months, some trials achieved significant results, and all provided new insight into how we use human behaviour to inform policy and practice. The trials included ‘nudging’ people to choose healthier drinks by making them more prominent, offering incentives in workplaces to get people more active, encouraging people to drink more water in Melbourne licensed premises and sports stadiums, as well as installing water fountains with bottle refills across the CBD.

A Deliberative Forum: Victoria’s Citizens’ Jury on Obesity had 100 ‘everyday Victorians’ deliver a consensus view on the 20 recommendations, or ‘asks,’ that, if implemented by government, industry and civil society, would enable Victorians to eat better.

Download: Victoria’s Citizens’ Jury on Obesity insights report 2016 (PDF, 4.3 MB).

A growing capability within the Victorian public sector in applying behavioural insights concepts and practices to health promotion and across government

Workshop training: Eleven practical workshops enabled access to Behavioural Insights training for 395 public sector and non-profit professionals.

Public lectures: Seven public lectures conducted to provide almost 900 professionals with a basic understanding of behavioural insights concepts and their potential for application in health promotion.

New collaborations and partnerships

A community of practice: A community of practice has been launched for behavioural insights in health promotion, in collaboration with the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and our trial partners.


Below is a summary of projects and trials undertaken in the Leading Thinkers Residency - Behavioural Insights and Healthier Lives

Citizens’ Jury on Obesity View more

In 2015, VicHealth, with the support of New Democracy Foundation, convened Victoria’s Citizens’ Jury on Obesity. Our aim was to establish community consensus for government, industry and community action on obesity.

Read more here

IGA Eatwell Behavioural Insights trial View more

Deakin University, the City of Greater Bendigo, VicHealth and IGA collaborated to launch a first-of-its-kind behavioural insights trial encouraging Australians to make healthy choices at the supermarket.

Seven IGA supermarkets in Bendigo – Long Gully, Eaglehawk, Strath Village, Strathfieldsaye and Kangaroo Flat – and in Geelong – Grovedale and Grovedale East took part in the comprehensive trial.

Each intervention store was decked out with a range of innovative nudges in the form of health promoting material, including shelf tags that use the Health Star Rating system to highlight the healthiest items (those rated 4.5 or 5 stars), custom signage in trolleys and baskets, floor decals, healthy end of aisle displays, flyers, a range of posters and banners, and health promotion training for staff.

The trial presented an opportunity to determine which in-store interventions are most economically viable from the retailer's perspective, whilst maximising public health benefit.

The collaboration set up a second ‘randomised controlled trial’ which saw Eat Well @ IGA rolled out to an additional six IGA stores across Victoria, as well as an additional five stores that already collaborate with Champions IGA on marketing efforts.

The project was then awarded additional funding through an NHMRC grant to scale up the project in 14 stores across Victoria. The final report with findings from the project is due to be released at the end of this year.