Carrots, Sticks, and the Potential Benefits of Health Incentives

It’s a common theme here at Cancer News in Context – the important role our social and physical surroundings play in our health choices (previous posts).  The current issue of CDC’s journal, Preventing Chronic Disease, is devoted almost solely to one aspect of this: creating incentives for individuals or communities to make positive health choices.  Because as we all know, sometimes it takes a little push – a view of that carrot on the stick – to actually take the steps we know we should.  
Discussed in the articles, which were penned by researchers and scientists involved in Robert Wood Johnson’s MATCH (Mobilizing Action Toward Community Health) program, are incentives that range from financial (like, pay-for-performance) to reputational (like, community health rankings) to legal.  
By developing such incentives and studying them closely to determine which ones work and which ones are best left on the shelf, the ultimate hope is to not only effect a broad, positive change in populations but also ultimately shift the balance of the health care focus in the US much more towards prevention than it is right now.  
It’s a tall order, but the benefits (apart from the carrots) could be huge.

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