Giving Incentives for Healthy Behavior
Employers can use a variety of “carrots” to promote healthy behaviors. Some keys to success: Tie rewards to behavior change—not to weight. And don’t penalize or stigmatize employees who don’t reach a healthy weight.
Here is a summary of recommendations for worksite obesity prevention incentives, based on a review of expert guidance from the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, The Obesity Society, and others. For more detailed guidance on these recommendations and ideas for putting them into practice, explore the source list and the links to other resources.
|Offer incentives to promote healthy behaviors, such as participation in physical activity. Types of incentives include (1,2,3)
|Offer incentives for using preventive services, such as BMI screenings or health risk assessments (4,5)|
|Offer free or reduced price access to exercise clubs or gyms (2,5,6,7)|
|Do not use weight status as the basis for incentives or penalties (2)|
|Avoid stigmatizing overweight or obese employees (2,8)|
1. American Medical Association. National Summit on Obesity: Building a Plan to Reduce Obesity in America. Executive Summary and Key Recommendations.; 2004.
2. The Obesity Society. The Obesity Society Position on Employer Incentive and Penalties Related to BMI and Weight Loss 2011. Accessed February 2, 2012.
3. World Health Organization, World Economic Forum. Preventing Noncommunicable Diseases in the Workplace through Diet and Physical Activity: WHO/World Economic Forum Report of a Joint Event; 2008.
4. National Governors Association. Creating Healthy States: Actions for Governors. 2005. Accessed February 2, 2012.
5. Levi J, Vinter S, St. Laurent R, Segal LM. F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America2008: Trust for America’s Health; 2008.
6. Carnethon M, Whitsel LP, Franklin BA, et al. Worksite wellness programs for cardiovascular disease prevention: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2009;120:1725–41.
7. Lee V, Mikkelsen, L, Srikantharajah, J, Cohen, L. Promising Strategies for Creating Healthy Eating and Active Living Environments. Oakland: Prevention Institute; 2008.
8. World Health Organization. The Challenge of Obesity in the WHO European Region and the Strategies for Response: World Health Organization; 2007.
The aim of the Harvard School of Public Health Obesity Prevention Source Web site is to provide timely information about obesity’s global causes, consequences, prevention, and control, for the public, health and public health practitioners, business and community leaders, and policymakers. The contents of this Web site are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Web site. The Web site’s obesity prevention policy recommendations are based primarily on a review of U.S. expert guidance, unless otherwise indicated; in other countries, different policy approaches may be needed to achieve improvements in food and physical activity environments, so that healthy choices are easy choices, for all.