For more information on the LifeGuide project please see the
Interventions designed to influence people's behaviour ('behavioural interventions') are a fundamental part of daily life, whether in the form of personal advice, support and skills-training from professionals (e.g. educators, doctors) or general information disseminated through the media. However, personal advice and support are very costly, and it is impossible to provide everyone with 24 hour access to personal guidance on managing all their problems. General information provided through the media may not be seen as relevant to the particular problems of individuals, and provides no support to help people make desired changes to their behaviour. For the first time, the internet provides a cost-effective opportunity to provide open 24 hour access to extensive information and advice on any problem. Interactive technology means that the advice can now be specifically 'tailored' to address the particular situation, concerns, beliefs and preferences of each individual, and intensive daily support can be provided for behaviour change in the form of reminders, personalised feedback regarding progress and overcoming obstacles, help with planning, and opportunities for communication with peers.
In view of this huge potential, internet-based behavioural interventions are starting to be developed in the public and private sector. However, currently each intervention is programmed from scratch individually, with the result that the initial development costs are greater for internet-based than for traditionally delivered interventions, and once programmed they cannot easily be modified. This seriously limits the number of interventions that can be developed and evaluated, and acts as a barrier to innovation and enhancement of interventions by researchers.
The aim of this project is to develop, evaluate and disseminate an internet-based set of resources (the BI-Grid / Behavioural Intervention Grid) that will allow researchers to flexibly create and modify two fundamental dimensions of behavioural interventions: a) providing tailored advice; b) supporting sustained behaviour. The BI-Grid will eliminate the costly waste of resources involved in programming every intervention individually, and will allow researchers to easily test components of interventions and immediately modify and improve the interventions based on their findings. The BI-Grid will increase the number of researchers who can engage in this type of research, opening it up to those with limited funding (e.g. junior researchers and research students). The practical benefit will be more rapid development of better interventions, while the scientific benefit will be a much faster accumulation of knowledge about the effects of different elements of interventions than at present, which will improve our basic understanding of the influences on behaviour.
In this project social scientists and computer scientists will work closely together to develop the software needed, using extensive consultation through workshops and the internet to obtain researchers' views of how to make the BI-Grid fit for all requirements. We will test and demonstrate the value of the BI-Grid by involving a network of researchers in collaboratively applying it to two very different problems that have relevance to everyone. First, we will evaluate how effectively the BI-Grid can be used to provide people suffering from colds and 'flu with tailored advice that enables them to cope with their symptoms without consulting their GP. Second, we will evaluate how effectively the BI-Grid can provide support to increase physical activity over a sustained period. We will interview 48 users to gain insights into how their experiences of using the BI-Grid can be improved, and will use the BI-Grid to collect detailed data on the use of the interventions by over 3000 people, enabling us to carry out powerful analyses of which ingredients of each intervention work best for whom, in what circumstances.