John is currently testing the ways in which incentives can be used to help people maintain their weight loss. “We’re working with possible longer-term financial incentives—perhaps provided by insurance companies—that might be necessary to get people to keep weight off,” she says. She’s also testing what happens when you incentivize the behaviors that lead to weight loss, such as portion control or healthier food choices, instead of simply the end result. “If you incentivize the process rather than just the outcome, you are teaching people how to be healthier,” says John. “This may instill healthier habits that are easier to sustain once you remove the incentives.”
HealthyWage is currently piloting various long-term programs where the participants make an investment upfront and get paid on a regular basis for keeping the weight off. “We're very optimistic that an incentive-based program can continue to be used to keep you accountable to yourself and keep you from gaining weight back,” says Roddenbury. And Rosen, too, has been researching how short-term behavior modification can transition into long-term sustainable, healthy habits. “We’re hoping to work with academics to use our data, anonymously, to develop a better understanding of how to promote sustainable weight loss,” says Rosen.
Though there’s still much to be explored in the world of financially-rewarded weight loss, there’s no denying the tremendous potential it has to impact the healthcare industry—including potentially lowering healthcare costs. “An obese person costs an incremental $1,500 per year in health care costs,” explains Roddenbury. “If the health care payor can take some of the $1,500 and give it to the consumer as a financial incentive such that she loses weight and is no longer obese, it's win-win.”
It seems that in this losing game, everyone wins.
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