Incentive-based health programs can motivate people to change their behaviour.
Among insurance customers who were rewarded with lower premiums for keeping fit, those who added two gym visits to their weekly routine were 13 per cent less likely to go to hospital.
The hospital costs of those who were active throughout the five-year study were 16 per cent lower than those who were inactive, and were 6 per cent lower in those who went from being unfit to fit.
There was also a 22 per cent increase in gym membership recorded among the 300,000 South African customers of an insurance scheme called Vitality, which repays part of their annual premium if they eat well, exercise regularly and avoid smoking.
Pru Health, which commissioned the study and which runs Vitality together with the South African financial firm Discovery, says the results are the first to prove that financial incentives can improve individuals’ health as well as lowering healthcare costs across society.
Dr Katherine Tryon from PruHealth said: “For the first time we now have concrete evidence that a comprehensive, incentive-based health promotion programme can motivate people to change their behaviour and increase participation in physical activity over time.
“Furthermore, we can show this translates into positive benefits for both individuals as hospital admissions are reduced, and for the private medical insurance industry as lower hospital admission costs are subsequently generated.
“In a time of ever increasing healthcare costs, this is a significant finding for all concerned with reducing the overall healthcare burden on both a national and international level.”
Photo credit: Off the Grid News