Thursday, July 22, 2010

The role of incentives to change unhealthy behavior

Today, Newsweek published an article that takes a look at the role of health incentives meant to change behavior. The article describes research that was released at this week's International AIDS conference that shows that cash payouts made to young women in South Africa has been successful in deterring the spread of HIV.

Would a similar strategy of financial rewards help those in the U.S. engaging in unhealthful behaviors change their ways? Programs are being made use of by companies trying to reign in out of control healthcare costs. But do these programs provide meaningful gains in the long-run? One small study points out that while participants were enrolled in a program that provided financial incentives as well as lifestyle counseling, the average participant lost between 13-14 pounds while participants in another group that only received counseling lost almost 4 pounds. But for participants in both groups, the weight returned once the program was over.

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