Nudging or Shoving? The Ethical Debate

Influencing Healthy Lifestyles: Nudging or Shoving? The Ethical Debate 

Department of Health Symposium

On 11 May, we hosted a debate on “Influencing Healthy Lifestyles: Nudging or Shoving?” in Dublin Castle.

We asked a number of experts to debate the questions: Should policy-makers try to influence people’s behaviour when it comes to lifestyle choices and does nudging represent an efficient yet proportionate tool of governance or might it be seen as a step towards a nanny state?
Find out more! Check out who spoke at the debate by reading the programme or even watch a short video we made of the day.

You can also read our press release here and read the speaking notes and presentations below.

Watch a short video interview with each of the international speakers, on the topic of Nudge approaches to health and lifestyle behaviour change.


Ms Kate O’Flaherty


Read Kate O’Flaherty, Director, Healthy Ireland and Wellbeing Programme Speaking points here.



Dr Siobhán O’Sullivan


Read Dr Siobhán O’Sullivan, Chief Bioethics Officer, Department of Heatlh Speaking Notes here.




View the Programme here


Pete Lunn – Senior Research Officer at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). Dr Pete Lunn is an economist, author and former BBC journalist. Originally trained as a neuroscientist, his primary research interest is economic decision-making. Most recent work centres on the implications for public policy of what is now known about how people make economic decisions. Has published research on participation in sport and physical activity (supported by the Irish Sports Council).   Read his presentation here.

Harald Schmidt – Assistant Professor, Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy. Research Associate, Centre for Health Incentives and Behavioural Economics, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. Former assistant director of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics in the UK and was involved in preparing the Council’s report Public Health Ethical Issues (2007) which proposed the stewardship model of public health as well as the intervention ladder. Read his presentation here.

Luc Bovens – Professor of Philosophy and Head of Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Written extensively in the area – e.g.  Why Couldn’t I be Nudged to Dislike a Big Mac? (2013), The Ethics of Nudge  (2008) and Nudges and Cultural Variance: a Note on Selinger and Whyte (2010). Read his presentation here.

Dan Berry – Programme Manager for the UK Department of Health’s behavioural insights team. He has held this role since the team was established in 2012. The team has run a number of projects to test the efficacy of behavioural interventions across a range of health and care challenges. This team in the Department of Health works alongside the Behavioural Insights Team (‘nudge unit’) at the UK Government’s Cabinet Office. Read his presentation here.

Marieke ten Have – Senior Advisor at the Netherlands Centre for Ethics and Health (CEG) and the Council for Public Health and Society (RV&S), the Hague. The CEG identifies and informs about developments in the field of health which deserve a place on the government’s ethical policy agenda. Marieke prepared two CEG reports about ethics and lifestyle: Lifestyle Differentiation in Health Insurance and Influencing Lifestyles: Between Nannying and Neglect. She studied philosophy at the University of Amsterdam and wrote her PhD thesis ‘Prevention of obesity: weighing ethical arguments’ at the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam.  Read her presentation here.