So what are your options?

The first step in this creation process is to carry out secondary research (also known as desk research) – this first step is crucial as it will provide the foundations for your work. Secondary research can be segmented into different geographical regions; locally, nationally and internationally. While some may not pay much attention to evidence from other countries, data is still useful to include as part of review that can guide you towards your goals.

Local vs National data

Perhaps one of the main issues in trying to get an understanding of the behaviour you are looking into is the availability of local data. National data is more readily available, which is great for national governments and health bodies, but this isn’t something that local governments, health trusts and CCGs can always rely on to create a strategy that is suited to their local area - especially when data is presented on a county or country level.

In such instances, local data is really important - especially with limited budgets and resources. The second step of this process is to use the current data and evidence available at a local level. The more recent the better. Working with old data can cause problems so old data should not be used to guide you in creating a strategy, only to assist you if you want to use it to demonstrate trends in behaviour over the years.

But you might find yourself asking what to do if there isn’t any local data - or that the data is not very insightful and is instead a summary of numbers? The obvious solution would be to generate the data yourself. By doing so, you have a clear idea and understanding of what to investigate, as well as probing areas that could also add more value to existing data.

Plug the gaps

Step three. You’ve made it through secondary research and planning for your own research, so now is the time to fill knowledge gaps – this is where it gets exciting! After compiling the data, analysing the trends and looking at the issue and how it has been addressed elsewhere will highlight the gaps in research which will help you to design your primary research framework. Whilst plugging the gaps remember that small data is often overlooked, with more emphasis usually placed on big data. However, small data is the key to developing effective strategies and campaigns. 

One recent example of how piloting a policy could backfire is from Los Angeles. A pilot was carried out in the city in an attempt to tackle obesity by restricting where individuals can access fast food. The policy, aimed to reduce the obesity figures in South LA did not have an impactful effect. Results show that the number of people who were overweight or obese rose by more than 12% over a 5/6 year period.

To find out how we can help you in understanding behavioural patterns in your area on issues such as healthy lifestyles, obesity, alcohol patterns, smoking, sexual health or any other issue, get in touch with a member of our team to tell us more about what you would like to find out and how we could provide you with a solution.