We need to understand human behaviour better. The COVID-19 crisis has starkly revealed the lack of agreement about what human behaviour is, what causes it, or, most importantly, how to change it. In this inaugural lecture, Professor Val Curtis reflects on 40 years at LSHTM spent largely on the track of behaviour, in particular, behaviour that relates to Hygiene, Water and Sanitation.
Val has a multidisciplinary background (engineering, public health and evolutionary anthropology). She directs the Environmental Health Group at LSHTM. She set up the Global Public-Private Partnership for handwashing, co-founded Global Handwashing Day, and co-developed Behaviour Centred Design which couples behavioural theory with a system for changing it, at both an individual and an institutional level. She has written books about the emotion of disgust and the evolution of behaviour and has worked with many different organisations in some 70 countries on designing and trialling WASH interventions. She is currently a member of SPI-B, the UK government’s behavioural advisory group, and is an advisor to the Indian and Tanzanian governments on their National Sanitation campaigns. She helped to get universal handwashing onto the list of Sustainable Development Goals and is probably the only person to ever give a speech at the United Nations to feature a plastic poo.