NICE asks the public for views on incentives to improve health
Using incentives could be an effective way of encouraging people to make positive lifestyle changes like giving up smoking or losing weight, says NICE's Citizens Council, a group which brings the views of ordinary people to NICE's decision-making.
NICE is now keen to hear what the public thinks about the use of incentives to improve health. Anyone with a view is invited to comment, before the final report is presented to the NICE Board for consideration.
Importantly, NICE is not saying whether or not incentives should be used across the NHS, it is simply asking what the public thinks about the approach.
At a three-day meeting held in May, the independent Citizens Council was asked to consider whether there are circumstances when incentives could acceptably be used to help motivate people to live healthier lives.
Almost two-thirds of the 30 members of the group, reflecting the age, gender, socioeconomic status and ethnicity of the people of England and Wales, concluded that incentives could be an effective way of encouraging people to change their unhealthy lifestyles providing that certain conditions are met.
Those who voted in favour of the use of incentives only did so providing that incentives should never be exchangeable for tobacco or alcohol; that they are only offered to people who are committed to changing their health behaviours; that cash incentives should be only offered as a last resort; that the progress of participants is monitored throughout; and that the results of the schemes are analysed so that more can be learnt about their effectiveness.
The members agreed that incentive schemes are likely to work best when they are targeted and used as part of a wider programme of support.
They should also acknowledge the complex factors that motivate people to put their health at risk, such as by excessive eating or drinking, drug-taking, a lack of exercise or smoking.
Members who voted against the use of incentives did so because of uncertainty over their long term benefits due to a lack of evidence, their potential for abuse, their cost, and because of their perceived unfairness towards people who are able to live healthy lives without them.
Sir Michael Rawlins, Chairman of NICE, said that although the views of the Citizens Council do not constitute formal guidance, they do advise on the social values that should underpin our work.
“For these reasons I am extremely grateful that the Council has considered whether there is a place for incentive schemes to encourage people to change their bad habits and live healthier lives.
“We clearly face several public health challenges in today's society, some more obvious than others, and we must seek to improve these in ways that are likely to achieve the best health outcomes for those affected.
“The majority of the Council has voted in favour of the use of incentives under certain circumstances, but this clearly remains a divisive issue. We are now very keen to hear what the general public thinks about their conclusions, “he said.
Members of the public have until 5.00pm on 26 November 2010 to comment on the Citizens Council report.
September 28 2010
This page was last updated: 28 September 2010