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Incentive-based Fitness Programs Reduce Health Costs, Study Shows

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, January 21, 2010

Incentive-based health promotion programs enhance physical wellness and reduce healthcare costs, according to a study released today.

Specifically, members who participated in fitness-related activities within an incentive-based health insurance wellness program had significantly lower health costs, according to the study published in the January/February issue of American Journal of Health Promotion.

Participants who were active in fitness activities also were less frequently admitted to a hospital and the length of stay was significantly less, the study showed.

As employers struggle with increasing healthcare costs and a prevalence of chronic diseases, "more and more are turning to population health management programs as a solution," says Arthur C. Carlos, CEO of the Vitality Group, which sponsored the study. The Vitality Group is a member of Discovery Health, South Africa’s largest private insurer. In the U.S., the Vitality Group runs an independent health improvement program.

"Incentive-based wellness programs are designed to change behaviors and improve the health of their members," Carlos says. "By improving health in a sustainable way, it is possible to reduce costs over the long-term."

The study examined medical claims over a year filed by nearly 950,000 adult members of Discovery Health. Of the members, more than 62% registered for Vitality, an incentive and reward-based health promotion program offered by Discovery Health to its members.

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