The House of Lords Science & Technology Committee has drawn on the Council’s ‘ladder of interventions’ to illustrate its conclusion that a whole range of measures – including some regulatory measures – will be needed to change behaviour in a way that will make a real difference to society’s biggest problems.

The Committee’s report on behaviour change, published today, finds that non-regulatory approaches to behaviour change – often referred to as ‘nudging’ – used in isolation will often not be effective in changing the behaviour of the population.

The Council’s intervention ladder, which was presented in its 2007 report Public health: ethical issues, is a method of thinking about the acceptability and justification of different public health policies.

Food labelling

Commenting on the Government’s recent White Paper on public health, Hugh Whittall, Director of the Council, said:

“While we support applying policies that achieve the desired social goals while minimising significant limitations on individual freedom, the evaluation of public health interventions cannot always start at the bottom. Depending on the evidence, stronger measures might be required from the start.”

"In addition, it is important to recognise that ‘nudging’ is still a rung, albeit fairly low down, on the intervention ladder and will require justification. Non-intervention is not always to be preferred over intervention, as ‘doing nothing’ will often have adverse consequences for many people.”

Food labelling

In 2007, the Council recommended that the food industry should adopt the food labelling scheme that is found to be most effective. Evidence that has since emerged suggests that the traffic light system is better understood by consumers, yet the Government has decided to pursue a system of labelling based on percentage guidelines daily amount (GDA).

The Lords Committee recommends that the Government take steps to implement a traffic light system of nutritional labelling on all food packaging.


The intervention ladder was also recently used by the Department of Transport in the White Paper Creating Growth, Cutting Carbon to illustrate their goal of enabling and encouraging more healthy and sustainable transport choices.

Download the House of Lords report on Behaviour Change

Download the Department of Transport White Paper Creating Growth, Cutting Carbon

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