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Sandra Fryhofer, MD

Weight Loss for Hire?

By Sandra Fryhofer, MDPosted April 5, 2013 12:32pm (EDT)
Weight Loss for Hire?

If living better and longer aren’t reward enough for controlling your weight, how about money?

Some 67% of large employers now offer some sort of financial incentive to encourage healthy behaviors. The hope is adopting more healthy lifestyles will improve health and reduce chronic diseases, and cut health care costs.

A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, compared weight loss results from individual and group employee incentive programs. 100 obese employees had access to weight control-related information from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Study participants were then assigned to one of three groups:

- Group 1: Control group: Monthly weigh- ins
- Group 2: Individual financial incentives ($100 per month) for meeting monthly minimum weight loss targets
- Group 3: Group financial incentives ($500 per month per team of 5) to be split among team members hitting monthly minimum weight loss goals

The findings were encouraging. You might say they showed team spirit. Perhaps the team concept sharpened the competitive edge. At the end of six months, those enrolled in the group financial incentive program lost the most weight. Group members lost 7 pounds more than those who went solo, and 10 pounds more than the control group.

I think this is money well spent. What we need now is more research to find the best way to structure these incentives to get the most bang (weight loss and healthy behavior) out of those bucks. The study suggests that inserting group dynamics and competition into these programs helps. Easy access to healthy food choices and exercise facilities is also important.

Your Health Matters,
Sandy Fryhofer, MD

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