Using Behavioural Sciences to Address Health Inequalities

During Covid we saw numbers of cancer referrals fall significantly and although most have recovered since, some cancer pathways are still not seeing the numbers of referrals that we would expect or we are seeing later referrals in those pathways.

To try and address this, Northern Cancer Alliance agreed that one of our priorities for 2022/2023 would be to try and increase early referrals to the Head and Neck Cancer pathways.

Northern Cancer Alliance already target their work using health inequality data but we decided to further develop this work by tailoring our awareness messages using behavioural science approaches. We are working with CAJA, a company experienced in using ‘Nudge’ theories and applying them to Cancer programmes.

As well as co-producing a Head and Neck awareness campaign with us they have also trained up our cancer community awareness staff in the behavioural science approaches that will be useful to them in their work with our communities.

The staff commented after the training that it had been very useful and practical, giving them ideas about how many leaflets to have on an awareness stall to how to adapt their messages to the different communities they are targeting.

Find out more about ‘nudge’ theories

The Head and Neck awareness campaign will have two sections to it:

  • Materials aiming to raise awareness of Head and Neck Cancer symptoms with the public, asking them to self-check and then speak to their GP with any concerns
  • Materials for professionals to help them spot head and neck cancers sooner and refer into secondary care

Pilot posters


NCA are testing these materials now and looking to launch the campaign in early 2023. We look forward to your support in sharing these messages in your patch.