By Lilian Anekwe
NICE has invited comments on a report on the benefits of offering people financial incentives to lose weight, quit smoking and adopt healthier habits.
The majority of an advisory group whose recommendations underpin their work believes that financial incentives would induce unhealthy people to their diet and lifestyles.
Several PCTs have piloted their own schemes including an initiative to encourage pregnant women to stop smoking by offering supermarket vouchers, people receiving cash for losing agreed amounts of weight, and children being rewarded with toys in exchange for eating more fruit and vegetables.
At a NICE Council meeting nearly two thirds of members voted in favour of incentive schemes, providing conditions such as the following were in place:
• 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.
NICE is now inviting members of the public to comment on the views of its Citizens Council, before the report is presented to its Board for consideration.
Sir Michael Rawlins, Chairman of NICE, said: ‘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.'
The council's report can be viewed and commented on here.Patients could be offered cash for improving their health