Premium-based financial incentives to promote weight loss

Opportunity

More than one-third of adults are obese. Workplace wellness programs are increasing in popularity, and many employers now offer financial incentives for health promotion, including weight loss. However, these incentives are typically deployed through discounts to health insurance premiums, and their effectiveness has not been well examined.

Approach

We conducted a one-year randomized trial testing different premium-based financial incentives for weight loss promotion. We enrolled 200 obese employees and randomly assigned them to a control group or one of three incentives, each valued at $550. Incentives included a standard delayed premium reduction, an immediate premium reduction, or a daily lottery.

Impact

We found that participants in all three incentive arms had no significant weight loss compared to the control group. Employees in the daily lottery arm engaged with the workplace weight scales at higher rates. This study was one of the first randomized trials of premium-based financial incentives.  Findings suggest that future interventions should test incentives outside of insurance premiums and try other amounts.

Collaborators

Human Resources Department, University of Pennsylvania 

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