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higi, mHealthCoach study looks at impact of incentives on healthy behaviors, outcomes


ORLANDO — A new study presented at the American Heart Association’s 2016 Council on Hypertension Scientific Sessions by health engagement platform company higi is highlighting how social influence and financial incentives can impact healthy behaviors that can lower blood pressure. 


The study, for which higi partnered with mHealthCoach, looked at the impact a three-month group challenge called LowerMyBP had on participants’ blood pressure. The study compared a group who met inclusion criteria and were invited to join the challenge with a group who met the criteria and were not invited to join. Those who opted in received reminder emails every week encouraging healthy physical activity and biometric screening at their local higi station. Every week, those who checked their blood pressure were entered into a weekly drawing for a $25 gift card and a grand prize drawing for a $100 at the end of the study. 


The results showed a correlation between lower blood pressure and joining the challenge, and that challenge participants who measured their blood pressure less than once a month before opting in showed improved readings with increased engagement, which continued at least four months after the challenge ended and the incentives stopped. 


“Current health engagement efforts predominantly focus on 'carrots or sticks' (incentives) to engage individuals. The problem arises when you remove the incentives because the individual is now trained to remove the motivation to change,” higi's chief medical and chief technology officer, Dr. Khan Siddiqui, said. “But social influence stays and can be more powerful to help drive long-term habit formation. What was remarkable in this study is that after the incentives were removed and the challenge completed, the positive behavior of monitoring BP regularly was sustained, suggesting a new habit had formed and validating the important role social influence plays in driving behavior change. These findings reinforce the need for incorporating socially-based strategies as a core component of any health engagement program.”


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