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 through these programs for health promotion, including weight loss. However, these incentives are typically deployed through discounts to health insurance premiums, and their effectiveness had not been well examined.

Approach

We conducted a 1-year randomized trial testing different forms of 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, including 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 and findings suggest that future incentive designs should test different designs including incentives outside of insurance premiums and different amounts.

Collaborators

Human Resources Department, University of Pennsylvania 

Related Videos

‘Should we pay to improve health behaviours?’

Professor Katy Milkman of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Marc Mitchell of Western University, Dr. Mitesh Patel of the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit, and Kieron Boyle of Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Charity discuss incentives at BX2019.

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