Skip to main content


IHR Seminar: Enhancing the social and cultural relevance of interventions

Guest Speaker: Professor Sally Wyke, Deputy Director of Institute of Health and Wellbeing, Research Professor at the University of Glasgow

Event details


The evidence and theory supporting innovation in behaviour change interventions are building at an exciting pace but the scale of the international public health challenge remains enormous. In this presentation Sally argues that if, in intervention development and research, we pay even more attention to the essentially social nature of health-related behaviours, and if we recognise and work with the cultural context within which health and other behaviours are enacted and reformulated over time, we can improve both the reach and effectiveness of our programmes. In essence, we argue for greater integration of what Wright-Mills called the ‘sociological imagination’ into programme development.

To make this case we draw, amongst other evidence, on our experience of developing and evaluating the ‘Fans in Training’ set of programmes, the first of which is the highly successful, award-winning, Football Fans in Training (FFIT) programme. FFIT is gender-sensitised in relation to context (the traditionally male environment of football clubs and men only groups), content (information about the science of weight loss presented simply, discussion of alcohol and its potential role in weight management, and branding with club insignia), and style of delivery (participative with time devoted to interaction amongst participants for vicarious learning and mutual support). This, and subsequent programmes in professional sports and faith-based settings we are developing, are explicitly designed to work with rather than against existing cultural identities in attracting and engaging participants in change and, through multiple opportunities for interaction, to support long-term change and the negotiation of new, more ‘healthful’ identities.

Sally concludes that a more interdisciplinary approach to the development and delivery of health improvement programmes can both enhance their reach and effectiveness and potentially contribute to wider scale cultural change at a societal level.

Hunt, K, Wyke, S, Gray, CM, Anderson, A, Brady, A, Bunn, C, Donnan, PT, Fenwick, E, Grieve, E, Leishman, J, Miller, E, Mutrie, N, Rauchhaus, P, White, A & Treweek, S (2014) ‘A gender-sensitised weight loss and healthy living programme for overweight and obese men delivered by Scottish Premier League football clubs (FFIT): a pragmatic randomised controlled trial.’ The Lancet. Vol 383. April 5.


EMS Building F20