Public want greater control of their health but lack confidence, skills and knowledge

Nesta’s Health Lab research shows more must be done to promote ‘people-powered’ and-data driven approaches to health

Nearly two-thirds of the British public (64 per cent)1 want to take greater control of their health but almost a quarter (23 per cent) are not confident that they can help prevent or reduce problems associated with their health, shows a new survey from Nesta’s Health Lab.

Launched to coincide with The Future of People Powered Health 2017 event, the findings point to the opportunities that people-powered and data-driven approaches - such as peer support groups, digital technologies and group activities - can offer, in particular, for the 15 million people in the UK living with a long term health condition.

Despite the survey showing people have a desire to be more involved in managing their health, less than half (47 per cent) have taken any action to do so in the last year. And, just under one in five (18 per cent) were very confident in their own ability to improve their health. When it comes to new digital technologies, just under a quarter of people (24 per cent) say they use health apps, fitness trackers or other wearables to track their health. Compared to Nesta’s survey of GPs, it shows a missed opportunity: 64 per cent of GPs surveyed said that this data provides useful insights for consultations.2

The GPs surveyed reported high levels of social prescribing - linking their patients with sources of support in the community such as peer support, group activities and health coaching. When asked which they recommend to patients, group activities and self-management education topped the list, followed by peer support. GPs cited patient confidence or willingness among the main reasons preventing them from recommending these more frequently.

A lack of familiarity of what’s available in their local area also came out consistently high when it comes to reasons why GPs do not recommend certain social prescribing routes to their patients. This was the case for connecting people to peer support (61 per cent), health coaching (61 per cent) and group-based activities (45 per cent).

With almost two-thirds of people (64 per cent) saying they want more support and knowledge to better look after their health, this suggests that well-designed and supported social prescribing schemes could enable many more people to get on top of their health.

In response to the findings and six years of work by Nesta exploring the potential of data-driven and people-powered health, Nesta’s Health Lab is calling for:

  • Greater recognition of the demand, from people with health conditions and health professionals alike, for people powered health.
  • Implementation of people-powered and data-driven ways of working across the system, using the best available tools and evidence.
  • Value the role of people and communities in their health and wellbeing, including through co-production, volunteering and social movements for health.
  • Support to enable health and care professionals and the wider workforce to understand and work in people-powered and data-driven ways.

Halima Khan, executive director of Nesta’s Health Lab, commented: “Helping people to better help themselves is important to making the health system more sustainable. With one in every two households home to someone with a long term health condition, solutions that support people to get on top of their health should not be ignored. These approaches are often under-funded, patchy and fragmented. They’re also sometimes under-used simply because doctors and people who would benefit aren’t aware of them. The system must do more to ensure those that want access to support can get it.”

Nesta’s Health Lab, in partnership with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, have today convened over 400 commissioners, health providers and practitioners, charities and patients to explore how great people-powered and data-driven solutions can be sustained and scaled. More about The Future of People Powered Health 2017 is available here.

For more information about Nesta Health Lab and our People Powered Health work please visit


For more information contact Kasia Murphy in Nesta’s press office on 020 7438 2610/2543,  [email protected]


  1. The survey of 1117 members of the UK public was conducted by Censuswide for Nesta in April 2017.
  2. The survey of 1,009 UK GPs was conducted by medeConnect for Nesta in April 2017.
  3. GPs cited local knowledge, patient access, patient confidence or willingness and appropriate training as the main hurdles to recommending people power and data driven health approaches more frequently. The survey of 1,009 UK GPs was conducted by medeConnect for Nesta in April 2017.

Notes to editors:

About Nesta’s work in health:

Nesta set up Health Lab to act as a centre of expertise on people-powered and data-driven health. We look for better ways for people to remain healthy - drawing on their own energy and ideas, as well as the insights of medical science and new digital tools.

About Nesta:

Nesta is a global innovation foundation. We back new ideas to tackle the big challenges of our time, making use of our knowledge, networks, funding and skills.  We work in partnership with others, including governments, businesses and charities.  We are a UK charity that works all over the world, supported by a financial endowment.  To find out more visit Nesta is a registered charity in England and Wales 1144091 and Scotland SC042833.