Giving Compass' Take:

• In this story from StateScoop, author Colin Wood discusses recent research which indicates that changing public behavior can be as easy as giving people an easier alternative.

• Could the strategy of offering easy alternatives be useful in fields other than public health?

• To learn from India's progress in sanitation, click here.

Getting people to change their actions en masse doesn’t have to cost government much money or even take very much effort. It might just be a matter of presenting people with a more attractive alternative, the head of an organization that uses behavioral theory to develop policy told the National Governors Association Friday.

“In public health there’s a sense you must make people do a hard thing and be converted, but why can’t we look for easier options?” Michael Hallsworth, the North American managing director for the Behavioural Insights Team, a research group partly owned by the British government, said at the NGA’s winter conference in Washington.

BIT, which led projects in 31 countries last year, has helped government agencies increase the rate that people pay their bills by redesigning the physical letters that instruct on what is owed and how to pay, used text messages to improve student course completion rates, and tapped into prescription drug data to convince doctors to be more judicious about which patients get medications, Hallsworth said.

Making things “easy” for people can encourage a behavior or making it harder can reduce it. Hallsworth said there is research showing that issuing medications in blister packs, rather than bottles, makes medication more physically demanding to remove from the package, thus reducing the number of overdoses.

Read the full article about chaging public behavior by Colin Wood at StateScoop