Ebola outbreak demonstrates science’s need to ‘nudge’

Anjana Ahuja at the Financial Times: “It should be a moment of cautious optimism: a second promising vaccine has become available to tackle the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Instead, there is uncertainty and angst. Clinicians desperately want to see the new vaccine deployed. But officials in the DRC, unnerved by public reaction to an earlier experimental vaccine, worry that introducing a second one might stoke public suspicions and destabilise containment efforts.

Experts met in the capital Kinshasa last week to work out which way to jump. The dilemma illustrates that human behaviour can be as destructive to global health as any deadly pathogen. Addressing diseases — even the organ-destroying horror that is Ebola — is no longer a matter of merely concocting a vaccine but also persuading people to roll up their sleeves for it. Some academics are even calling for the World Health Organization to establish its own “nudge unit” to apply lessons from behavioural science. While dealing with disease outbreaks “require[s] modifying or working with human behaviour”, they wrote recently in Scientific American, “the global response to these threats lacks a coherent focus on behavioural insights.”…(More)”