University of Newcastle researchers have found that financial incentives can potentially to lead to positive changes in some health behaviours, particularly among socially disadvantaged groups.
A review of recent research looking at the effectiveness of personal financial incentives in changing health behaviour, published in the International Journal of Behavioural Medicine, found that depending on the types of behaviours targeted, improvements in health outcomes can be achieved.
Lead researcher Dr Marita Lynagh said ‘simple’ behaviours were the most effective.
“Our research found the incentives that appear to be most effective in altering behaviours are simple, discrete and time-limited such as immunisation programs and attending health and education services,” Dr Lynagh said.
“Financial incentives are also more likely to work with socially disadvantaged groups, particularly when it addresses real barriers to change such as transport, medication and child-care costs.
“However, in the case of more complex and entrenched behaviours such as smoking, diet and exercise, success was more likely if the incentive was backed up with social support and skill training.”
The review also found that there is currently little evidence that one-time incentives have a long term impact on behaviour.
“It is clear that regular reinforcement with scheduled incentives is more effective at beginning and maintaining behaviour change, especially in the case of complex health concerns such as drug use and smoking where long-term change is the challenge,” Dr Lynagh said.
The article ‘What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Guiding principles for the use of financial incentives in health behaviour change’ was based on the proliferation of pay-for-performance programs for health care providers and asserts that given financial incentives have proven successful in this circumstance, then it could work for patients.
“We need effective public health interventions that can be easily adopted to encourage behaviour change, produce improved health outcomes and reduce the burden on health care systems,” Dr Lynagh said.
“Financial incentives are not the panacea to all risky health behaviours, but do hold promise for encouraging certain population groups to modify particular health behaviours.”
View the article at http://www.springerlink.com/content/d1706834h389025l/