Disease awareness not delivering? Here’s why…  

We are all very aware of the healthcare system challenges we face in terms of strained resources and sub-optimal patient outcomes – health inequalities continue to worsen, chronic conditions continue to rise, and cancer survival rates have slowed significantly despite advances in treatment options. This article is NOT going to rehash these challenges or add further analysis to the extensive body of evidence, but instead explore a small part of the potential solution in the form of behavioural science.

It’s time to step down awareness and embrace the age of activation.

Patient populations that are more involved and invested in their health benefit at the individual, healthcare system, and societal level.1,2 And yet we know that a challenge to disease awareness is often that it sends people into a healthcare system without equipping them to navigate it efficiently. Considered patient activation supports the system by empowering patients with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to optimise their healthcare journey.

We need to understand how to ‘activate’ individuals, what buttons to push to motivate them and nudge them towards health-seeking behaviour.

Evidence and experience suggest that this rarely has anything to do with knowledge about a disease and is often associated with factors such as who’s saying the message, how attention-grabbing the intervention and communications are (the tool or asset itself and the creative identity), and the emotions they’re feeling at the time.3 It requires meaningful and in-depth insights gathering and a comprehensive understanding of human behaviour to identify effective behavioural levers amidst a lot of noise. It is purposeful, targeted and supported by robust evidence.

Disease awareness alone imparts knowledge without necessarily considering behavioural intention and change. It’s putting information out without designing an environment or intervention to ensure a patient engages and does something about it. The intention-behaviour gap4 – the phenomenon where behavioural intention doesn’t translate into action – is well documented in health, and has to be considered through patient activation if we hope to make a measurable difference.

We must prioritise the needs and intention of the audience, adapting communications to what they need to hear to act, anticipating their interpretation and nudging them to execute health-seeking behaviours.

With patients exposed to more messaging and noise than ever before, and with multiple, pressing demands on their attention, communications programmes now need to intelligently cut through, resonate and change behaviour, not just share information.

At Aurora, we use behaviour change frameworks adapted through a suite of tried and tested tools. This ensures we create a holistic picture of our target audience, including how they understand their condition in the context of themselves, medically, and culturally within society, and establishing the factors governing their capability, opportunity and motivation to engage in certain behaviours.

We have the experience and expertise to embrace the messy and complex lives of our audiences, prioritise strategies that work in this environment (not despite it), and use tools to ensure measurable behavioural impact.

We’ve entered an age of patient activation and this cannot be achieved effectively without behavioural science. Equipped with the knowledge, methodologies and motivation to focus on driving real behaviour change, we’ve launched our All for Activation approach. 

Demand more from your communications programmes, go beyond awareness for awareness’ sake, and champion targeted ‘activation’ as best practice.

Partner with a team that truly understands human behaviour, can uncover key insights and co-create strategies that drive real, measurable behavioural change and improve outcomes for patients. Awareness can be an effective step on the path towards proactive disease management, but it is not an end in itself.  True, targeted patient activation considers the behavioural changes required, and in doing so, changes lives.

If you want to go beyond disease awareness to create meaningful behavioural change, please get in touch:

  1. What The Evidence Shows About Patient Activation: Better Health Outcomes And Care Experiences; Fewer Data On Costs. Available at: (Accessed March 2024)
  2. Patient Engagement: Four Case Studies That Highlight The Potential For Improved Health Outcomes And Reduced Costs. Available at: (Accessed March 2024)
  3. MINDSPACE: Influencing Behaviour Through Public Policy. Available at: (Accessed March 2024)
  4. Understanding the Intention-Behaviour Gap. Available at: (Accessed March 2024)