Employees offered financial incentives were 33 times more likely to participate in wellness programs

November 7, 2014
Science Daily/Obesity Society
Employers increasingly offer financial incentives to employees for participation in wellness activities; however whether these incentives lead to improved health behaviors and outcomes is unclear. This study gathered data on adult health plan members for three years, and compared the uptake of telephone health coaching among members who received employee incentives to those who did not. Results show those offered incentives were 33 times more likely to use the health coaching, and also did so sooner.

"While the jury is still out about whether workplace wellness programs improve health, the programs have great potential," said lead author Jason Block, MD, TOS Member and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School's Department of Population Medicine. "Our goal was to evaluate what motivates people to participate in these programs and what strategies companies and insurers can use to get everyone involved. Our data show that financial incentives clearly work to motivate participation in a health coach program."

From October 2010 to July 2013, researchers led by Dr. Block gathered data on adult members of one non-profit health plan. They compared the uptake of a telephone health coaching program among the 16,961 members who received financial incentives to the 974,782 members who did not. Their research found that during the nearly 3 year follow-up period, 10% of the members with incentives began using the telephone health coaching, whereas only 0.3% of those without the incentives did so. Financial incentives were also strongly associated with how long it took members to begin using the program. Members who used the telephone health coaching typically had 6 -- 7 interactions with a coach over an average duration of four months, where they discussed their lifestyle, assessed their health situation and concerns, and worked to develop specific health goals.

"The idea of using employer incentives to participate in health coaching is relatively new," says Eric Finkelstein, PhD, MHA, an Associate Research Professor in the Duke Global Health Institute at Duke University speaking on behalf of TOS. "This research gives us a solid foundation to build upon. The next step is to measure changes in these participants' health behaviors, and identify long-term success."
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141107154657.htm

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