Scope and findings
There is considerable academic, policy and practice interest in the use of incentives to improve a range of health outcomes, but especially those related to smoking, healthy eating, physical activity, obesity and weight management. However, there is uncertainty about the level of the published research literature that evaluates the effectiveness of incentives to address these health behaviours.
Researchers at the EPPI Centre conducted a scoping review of the research literature to assess the extent and nature of the research literature on incentives. One hundred and twenty-eight records of trials, RCTs and systematic reviews were identified. This indicates that there is a considerable body of research concentrated on this topic. The literature was fairly evenly split between those that targeted smoking behaviours and those that addressed weight, diet and activity issues. The majority of studies evaluated financial incentives, though other material incentives were also identified. While 27 systematic reviews were identified there remain some noticeable gaps in the evidence base, and implications for future research are suggested.
Consideration should be given to commissioning a full in-depth systematic review of incentive-focused reviews for improving health outcomes.
Consideration should be given to commissioning systematic reviews of primary research in the following areas:
- Incentives for smoking cessation in disadvantaged populations
- Incentives for smoking cessation in pregnancy
- Incentives for weight loss in overweight and obese populations
This report should be cited as: Kavanagh, J, Stansfield C, Thomas J (2009), Incentives to improve smoking, physical activity, dietary and weight management behaviours: a scoping review of the research evidence. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.