How direct to consumer content can save health budgets

December 11, 2019  |  Daphne Metland

In the UK the budget for the NHS is around £134 billion. In the US healthcare costs run at around $3.2 trillion. And costs are rising year by year. Long term chronic conditions take up around half of GP appointments and about 70% of the UK health spend.

Direct to consumer health content is key to managing healthcare costs. Teamed with behaviour change principles, it can empower people to manage their health rather than let their health manage them. And technology can deliver this health help at scale.

People are already skilled at using tech. Tech can deliver health results and key information straight into the user’s hand. But not many people understand what those results mean. Even if you know the numbers – your blood sugar level, your cholesterol figures, your HbA1C, your blood pressure, your cortisol level – most people will not know why they matter or, more importantly, how to change their behaviour to improve the stats.

This is where health content comes in. The key element of behaviour change is to make things easy. Tech can do that. We buy products with one click, book a car, check the weather, count our steps and find a recipe or download a podcast to our phones with just a couple of swipes. Content supplies the knowledge and supports the behaviour change. Together they really work to change lives for the better.

Thrive is an award-winning agency pioneering behaviour change and specialising in wellbeing. We work with corporates, NGOs, charities and governments to improve the health of millions, reaching 50 million people in 10 countries with our online content.

We also reach 8 million people in very poor countries with health messages delivered by mobile phone. We turn stats and medical complexities into actionable help. We create articles, apps, infographics, videos, tools and mobile phone messages in multi languages. And what works in developing countries can work even better in developed countries.

What makes our content work?

It’s accurate

All our content is evidence based and medically reviewed, so it’s accurate and up to date. We use NHS accreditation processes and subscribe to Health on the Net (HON) principles. Our team of researchers assess peer-reviewed articles and guidelines, and then our experienced health writers turn the evidence into accessible, useful content.

It’s empowering

We want to give people the knowledge they need about their health and support them while they take charge of it. Collecting the data and offering appointment reminders is a good start, but being able to make health lifestyle choices, understand the jargon and know the danger signs are key.

It’s personalised

We walk our users’ journeys to serve up just the right content at just the right time.

For maternal and child health programmes our content pivots around the birthdate. We count the pregnancy down to the arrival of the baby and then count the baby week by week as he or she grows.

Unihealth is our mental health and wellbeing programme for university students. We researched and created a timeline of the problems and issues university students face from the moment they get their acceptance letter, through freshers’ week, homesickness, finding friends, exams pressure and running out of money. We target practical, supportive messages just when they need them. Does it work? As one student put it: “’This must be some sort of psychic sh*t . Every time I get a problem or worry about something a message pops up on my phone that covers it!”

For other conditions we plot the user journey; we count down to an operation or procedure and up through the recovery period. Newly diagnosed? We can develop a programme that supports people through the adjustment period until they feel confident to manage their condition.

We use behaviour change techniques

Along with some CBT and Transactional Analysis concepts. Together these empower the end user and help them take action to improve their lifestyle and manage their condition. Regular messages and content give people time to adjust and make the changes that improve their health.

We understand the audience

We start with the evidence base and then add colour and understanding by talking with and listening to the audience. From conducting interviews with pregnant women in India, to knowing why the diabetes ‘dawn phenomenon’ is so confusing, to finding out what time a UK student wakes up on a Sunday, we’ve got the insight covered.

But don’t just take our word for it…

We have results from many of our large-scale projects. In India where we reach 2 million people, we have moved the needle on 17 out of 23 targets. In South Africa our programme increased the number of babies being tested for HIV. In the UK 75% of students on Unihealth said they took positive steps to improve their wellbeing.

About Daphne

Daphne Metland is a medical journalist and founder and director of Thrive. Daphne has presented at conferences and seminars including at the Global Digital Health Forum in Washington, at the Families +Social Good conference organised by the UN Foundation and at the House of Commons in London.


We don’t just help governments, we can help you change lives and save money through targeted, effective health content underpinned by behavioural insights. Want to find out how? Give us a shout.