The Person-Based Approach For Developing health interventions

The internationally recognised Person-Based Approach (PBA) is a set of methods and tools for developing effective interventions that people will find easy to use and engaging. It describes iterative methods for planning, optimising, evaluating and implementing behavioural health interventions that can successfully engage diverse users and support better health-related outcomes.

The PBA offers practical methods of carrying out many of the key intervention development activities recommended by the new MRC and INDEX guidance for developing interventions, such as involving stakeholders, understanding context, and developing a programme theory. 

What is the Person-Based Approach (PBA)?

The PBA combines stakeholder and PPI co-production with in-depth qualitative and mixed methods research with a diverse range of people. Using the PBA will enable you to:

  • Understand and meaningfully address the views, needs and experiences of intervention users
  • Understand the context within which users are engaging with the intervention or behaviour change
  • Consider how theory- and evidence-based content can be delivered and communicated in the most engaging and persuasive way
  • Discover the need for new intervention features that are not yet evidence-based or indicated by existing theory
  • Systematically document, agree and prioritise required intervention elements and changes
  • Identify and resolve problems with user engagement early so that fewer resources are wasted evaluating or implementing ineffective interventions

The PBA is an iterative method designed to be used at any or all stages of the cycle of planning, developing, optimising and evaluating interventions. It can be used flexibly and can be combined with other approaches to intervention development and evaluation, user centred design methods and Public and Patient Involvement (PPI). 

The PBA has evolved over time and is constantly being updated for new health contexts and include useful innovations and methods. This website provides an up-to-date introduction to the PBA, with links to papers that illustrate the variety of ways in which it has been used.

Click on the button below to see Professor Lucy Yardley's talk on the recent updates to the Person Based Approach.

The PBA can be used flexibly, depending on the needs and resources of your development team. It has been used for:

  • Very rapid development (e.g. of interventions to combat the Covid-19 pandemic)
  • Development by a very small team with limited resources (e.g. a student project)
  • In-depth development of very large interventions by multinational teams

Our approach evolved as a learning process through developing more than 50 interventions and conducting thousands of interviews with users. The PBA has been used to develop effective interventions for members of the public, patients and health care professionals, to support healthy behaviour and management of a huge range of conditions. Our approach has been validated by trial evidence showing that our interventions are effective, now published in top medical journals (e.g. Lancet, BMJ - Click here to see papers that demonstrate the effectiveness of interventions developed using the PBA). This website has links to many of our publications illustrating how the PBA has been used.

The PBA continues to evolve as we – and other researchers – identify new, different and better ways of implementing our approach. We would love to hear your experiences of using the PBA.

Find out more using the menu at the top of the page

  • FREE short online tutorials on how you can apply and adapt the PBA methods for your intervention development
  • FREE downloadable resources to support you in using the PBA (e.g. our Intervention Planning Table)