Human behavior accounts for almost 40% of the risk associated with preventable premature deaths in the United States. Health-injuring behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and drug abuse, as well as inactivity and poor diet are known to contribute to many common diseases and adverse health conditions. Unfortunately, there are few tried and true approaches to motivate people to adopt and maintain healthy behaviors over time. It is difficult for people to begin to change unhealthy behavior, even when they intend to do so, and even more difficult for them to maintain positive behavior changes in the long run. Effective and personalized approaches to achieve sustained behavior change are typically outside the routine practice of medical care. We often use terms like "willpower" and "self-control" to explain behavior change, although the underlying biological, social, and cultural contexts for these terms are not clear. It is clear, however, that understanding the basic underpinnings of motivation change across a broad range of health-related behaviors can lead to more effective and efficient approaches to behavioral intervention and ultimately improve the health of our nation.
The Common Fund's Science of Behavior Change (SOBC) Program aims to improve our understanding of human behavior change across a broad range of health-related behaviors. The SOBC Program supports research that integrates basic and translational science and cuts across many disciplines including, but not limited to, cognitive and affective neuroscience, neuroeconomics, behavioral genetics, and behavioral economics. The program plans to establish groundwork for a unified science of behavior change that capitalizes on both the emerging basic science and the progress already made in the design of behavioral interventions in specific disease areas. This will be accomplished by supporting basic research to improve our understanding of human motivation and maintenance of behavior change across multiple diseases and conditions, and using this knowledge to develop more effective and economical behavioral interventions.