Embedding neuroscience in public health policy

Non-smoking campaigns that tell teenage boys they will get lung cancer in 30 years if they don’t stop smoking just don’t work. “But prevention programs that tell them that girls don’t like smokers make them go pale with fear,” says Keith Humphreys, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. Humphreys, an affiliated faculty member of Stanford Health Policy, told an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this January that the better approach to public health campaigns are those tailored to the realities of the human brain. One of those realities is that our brains have evolved to be vulnerable to addiction, especially if we live in the lower-income tiers of society. An understanding of our evolutionary vulnerability to drugs and alcohol can help us to design effective…

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