Background: There is evidence that financial incentive interventions, which include both financial rewards and also penalties, are effective in encouraging healthy behaviours. However, concerns about the acceptability of such interventions remain. We report on focus groups with a cross-section of adults from North East England exploring their acceptance of financial incentive interventions for encouraging healthy behaviours amongst adults. Such information should help guide the design and development of acceptable, and effective, financial incentive interventions.
Methods: Eight focus groups with a total of 74 adults were conducted between November 2013 and January 2014 in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. Focus groups lasted approximately 60 minutes and explored factors that made financial incentives acceptable and unacceptable to participants, together with discussions on preferred formats for financial incentives. Verbatim transcripts were thematically coded and analysed in Nvivo 10.
Results: Participants largely distrusted health promoting financial incentives, with a concern that individuals may abuse such schemes. There was, however, evidence that health promoting financial incentives may be more acceptable if they are fair to all recipients and members of the public; if they are closely monitored and evaluated; if they are shown to be effective and cost-effective; and if clear health education is provided alongside health promoting financial incentives. There was also a preference for positive rewards rather than negative penalties, and for shopping vouchers rather than cash incentives.
Conclusions: This qualitative empirical research has highlighted clear suggestions on how to design health promoting financial incentives to maximise acceptability to the general public. It will also be important to determine the acceptability of health promoting financial incentives in a range of stakeholders, and in particular, those who fund such schemes, and policy-makers who are likely to be involved with the design, implementation and evaluation of health promoting financial incentive schemes.