NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 26, 2007

People will lose weight for money, even a little money.  This is a welcome sign for employers looking for ways to cut health care costs, according to a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The study involved employees split into three groups: one group received no incentives while the other two groups received $7 or $14 for each percentage point of weight lost.  The results:

  • Employees in the $14 group lost the most weight, an average of nearly 5 pounds after three months.
  • Those offered no incentives lost 2 pounds; those in the $7 group lost about 3 pounds.
  • Those in the $14 group were more than five times as likely to lose 5 percent of their weight -- the amount research has shown to be clinically significant, according to the study.

While there are some federal guidelines on offering cash incentives, the idea is relatively new and will likely require further study before many employers are willing to try such a program, said Dr. Jeffrey Dobro, a consultant with the human resources consulting firm Towers Perrin.

But LuAnn Heinen, director of an institute that studies the costs and effects of obesity for the National Business Group on Health, said the study will be welcomed by employers who realize participation in other health programs remains low or that they're paying for people to lose the same 10 pounds over and over again.

Source: Elizabeth Dunbar, "Study: Money Can Prod One to Lose Weight," Los Angeles Times, September 24, 2007.


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