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What Convinces College Students to Get Flu Vaccines?

Feb 24, 2014, 8:00 AM, Posted by Deborah Bae

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What convinces college students to get flu vaccines? Read the latest in our efforts to apply behavioral economics to perplexing health and health care problems.

Almost every college student knows that getting sick while at school will have negative effects on their grades and social life. So why do so many students forgo flu vaccinations that are readily available at almost every college health center? Researchers at Swarthmore College tested three approaches to motivate students to get a flu vaccine: a financial incentive, a peer endorsement via social networks, and an email that included an audio clip of a coughing individual to convey the consequence of not getting the vaccine. The researchers found that students offered as little as $10 were twice as likely to get a flu vaccination.

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One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Making Incentives Stick

Feb 14, 2014, 9:00 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

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By Emmy Ganos

I work for the country's largest foundation dedicated to health, but I have a secret. I have a huge problem staying away from my go-to comforts: macaroni and cheese, doughnuts, and most of all, the couch. I'm able to keep away from donuts most of the time, by exercising huge degrees of willpower on my way home from work each night (RIGHT PAST the Krispy Kreme). But by the time I get home, that's enough exercising for me, and I'm ready for my macaroni and my couch.

And, another secret, I barely exercise. About once a week, I walk for transportation around Philadelphia, and I walk fast. But that's the full extent of it for me. It is not uncommon for me to spend whole days on the couch -- with a great book and my cat on my lap, working on my laptop, or binge-watching HBO with my husband. I rarely exercise at work--despite free exercise classes and a free gym. 

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Simple, Small Changes Can Lead to Healthier Food Choices

Jan 21, 2014, 2:00 PM, Posted by Deborah Bae

Infographic: Can a Traffic Light Guide You To Make Healthier Choices?

At this time of year, many of us find ourselves trying hard to stick to that New Year’s resolution to eat healthier. Here is some good news: simple changes in our environment can have meaningful, sustained effects on our ability to make healthy food choices.

Committing to a healthier diet and trying to lose weight is hard, and many people believe they can do it as long as they have the right motivation and attitude. We’ll say things like, “I’m going to eat better” or “I’m going to eat fewer unhealthy foods.” But that commitment can be tough when people face a variety of unhealthy choices and just a few healthy ones. Or when it’s hard to tell which is which.

Researcher and physician Anne Thorndike and her colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital tested a novel idea: if all healthy food and drinks sold in the hospital cafeteria were labeled green, and all unhealthy items had red labels, would people make healthier choices?

Read more on the Culture of Health blog.

Six Ideas for Reducing the Use of Low-Value Health Care

Oct 17, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Lori Melichar

Lori Melichar, senior program officer Lori Melichar, senior program officer

Two years ago, my colleagues and I knew very little about how to use behavioral economics to improve health care decisions. Today, we know more. We also know how much there is to learn and do in this field.

That’s why we’re excited to announce six new grantees who will continue to build on the work we’ve funded over the last two years to apply principles from behavioral economics to challenges in health care.

The new grantees are as follows:

  • Amber Barnato and Rebecca Sudore, University of Pittsburgh and University of California, San Francisco, Consumer-directed financial incentives to increase advance care planning among Medicaid beneficiaries
  • Jeremiah Schuur, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Inc., Decision Fatigue in the Emergency Department and the Use of Hospital Services
  • Jeffrey Kullgren, University of Michigan Medical School, Decreasing Overuse of Low-Value Health Care Services through Physician Precommitment
  • Mark Vogel and Scott Halpern, Genesys Health System and University of Pennsylvania, BEACON -  Behavioral Economics for Advanced Care OptioNs
  • Richard Frank and Abigail Friedman, Harvard Medical School, Behavioral Experiments in Improving Medicare Coverage Choice
  • Mark Schlesinger and Rachel Grob, Yale University and University of Wisconsin – Madison,  Precommitment, Provider Choice, and Forgoing Low-Value Health Care

If you’re curious about why we’re funding these particular projects at this specific moment in time, read on.

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Pioneering Ideas Podcast: Episode 1

Aug 6, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

© CC-BY-NC-SA 2013 OCV PHOTO © CC-BY-NC-SA 2013 OCV PHOTO

Welcome to the first episode of the Pioneering Ideas podcast. Get insight into the Pioneer funding strategy in a Q&A with Brian Quinn. Next, in a conversation about our recent Behavioral Economics Call for Problems (time stamp: 4:35), Interim Pioneer Team Director Lori Melichar and Drs. Kevin Volpp and David Asch, co-directors of the Foundation's Behavioral Economics Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania, talk about the pros and cons of making proposals public so ideas can spread. Then Harvard's Ted Kaptchuk, a Pioneer grantee, talks about the developing science of placebo studies (9:25). And Senior Program Officer Paul Tarini talks with Pioneer grantee Ben Heywood about how PatientsLikeMe could change medical practice and research (13:10). It's a stimulating mix of conversations, all of which offer a window into what, exactly, constitutes a pioneering idea. Listen now or download the episode:

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