Can Behavioral Economics Solve Your Company’s Health Care Problems?


A recent study found that the U.S. lags behind other countries in improving disease prevention and life expectancy. America’s weak link? The workplace, according to the study. But it’s also one of the easiest to strengthen, and the workplace provides a unique platform for engaging people to adopt healthier habits. In particular, the still-evolving field of behavioral economics provides opportunities for employers to use evidence-based strategies to improve the health of their workforce.

Jesse is joined by Dr. Derek Yach from the Vitality Institute, to discuss the reasons for this health care gap – and what your company can do to engage your workforce for better health and productivity. Their conversation includes three components of behavioral economics to help employees – despite everyone’s irrational-but-natural inclination to choose short-term gratification even if it has negative long-term consequences – take healthier actions:

  • Financial incentives (such as discounts, lotteries, rewards, etc.)
  • Choice architecture (especially a healthy “default” if no choice is taken)
  • Tools to make healthful choices easier than unhealthy choices.

The study by the Vitality Institute, was recently published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The Vitality Institute is an action-oriented global research organization working to strengthen the evidence base about what works and what doesn’t work in health promotion and disease prevention. As described by National Public Radio, the Vitality Institute “finds ways to pay people to do healthful things” like eating more vegetables or exercising. In doing so, it helps health plans around the globe (including its parent company Discovery Limited, South Africa’s largest health insurance company) save on health care costs.

Derek Yach has focused his career on advancing global health. He is Senior Vice President (SVP) of the Vitality Group, where he leads the Vitality Institute. Previously, Dr. Yach was SVP Global Health and Agriculture Policy at PepsiCo, headed global health at the Rockefeller Foundation, was a Professor of Global Health at Yale University, and is a former Executive Director for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health of the World Health Organization (WHO).


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