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Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Motivation and Good Health

Another big NHS story to hit the news recently is the idea of the NHS providing incentives to motivate patients to become healthy.

An interesting idea in theory, as there is evidence that incentives do encourage people to continue behaviours - so if your goal is to quit smoking the the NHS rewards you, by whatever means, you are more likely to stick at it. In this example, the short term rewards for quitting is just as great (if not better than!) the long term reward (good health.)

But this idea hasn't come without controversy.

The first barrier is whether incentives are actually effective - or would the NHS just be throwing money away? So far, the results seem mixed - some hits and some misses. Unfortunately there is very little evidence at this point in time to suggest that even the positive evidence will last long term, especially after incentives are removed.

Unsurprisingly, in my mind at least anyway, a large percentage of the public is actually against NHS incentives, which struck me as rather amusing as the percentage of overweight and obese people in the UK is over 50% (or so my quick google for statistics told me.) Read into that what you will - there's no direct link between the two points, I honestly just found that interesting.

.. But people just don't feel incentives are fair.

And perhaps this is what it comes down to - fairness. It's not fair that people ruin their own health then are paid by the taxpayer to improve their health. The public seems to have no problem with surgery, e.g. for heart or lung problems, after the event - we don't seem to want people dead! - but it's not viewed as fair to help people before the absolutely need it.

I don't know which way to think - it's just an interesting point of note.

The thinkers at the NHS may have been along the right lines - motivation, it can be argued, is the number one reason people change their behaviour. I mean, why would you change your behaviour if you weren't motivated to do so - right? So their heart was in the right place.

But perhaps their are other motivations that can be used in the stead of taxpayers money? Smokers, for example, save a huge amount of money by simply not buying cigarettes! If smoker 'Frank' enjoys playing sports, what's going to motivate him more than being able to breath properly when he's running around the pitch?!

Motivation may be the key to helping people improve their on health - but maybe financial incentives are not the way to about it?

Looking to help motivate people yourself? - For more information on Motivation, have a look on our website and check out our course "Motivational Interviewing and Beyond."

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