HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Paying People to Lose Weight

The Associated Press reports on the idea that employers should pay employees to lose weight to save on health care costs.  Apparently people do respond to such a financial stimulus. The AP states,

People will lose weight for money, even a little money, suggests a study that offers another option for employers looking for ways to cut health-care costs.  The research published in the September issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that cash incentives can be a success even when the payout is as little as $7 for dropping just a few pounds in three months.

Unlike providing onsite fitness centers or improving offerings in the company cafeteria, cash rewards provide a company with a guaranteed return, the researchers said.  "They really can't be a bad investment because you don't pay people unless they lose weight," said Eric A. Finkelstein, the study's lead author and a health economist at RTI International, a research institute based in nearby Research Triangle Park.

The study involved about 200 overweight employees at several colleges in North Carolina. One group received no incentives while two other groups received $7 or $14 for each percentage point of weight lost.  Participants didn't get any help. Employees who received the most incentives lost the most weight, an average of almost 5 pounds after three months. Those offered no incentives lost 2 pounds; those in the $7 group lost about 3 pounds.

Finkelstein and co-authors Laura Linnan and Deborah Tate, professors at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Public Health, are analyzing data from a follow-up study that observed about 1,000 participants for a year. . . .

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