The issue of paying individuals to change their behaviours in health-enhancing ways, for example by encouraging them to quit smoking or take regular exercise, is a highly topical policy issue, in the UK and internationally. Yet personal financial incentives are riddled with ethical issues, with concerns regarding their effectiveness, and with further concerns that they may have unintended consequences. For instance, it may be the case that the electorate do not wish to see public money being used to persuade people to do things that many believe they ought to be doing anyway, and/or such incentives may be deemed coercive, particularly when directed towards the poor. Moreover, paying people to undertake particular actions may crowd out their intrinsic motivations for wanting to do those actions, as demonstrated by Richard Titmuss' classic work on blood donations almost forty years ago.
The feasibility and effectiveness of personal financial incentives is thus highly contestable and contested. Professor Paul Dolan of LSE, Professor Theresa Marteau of Kings College and Professor Richard Ashcroft of Queen Mary College have recently been awarded a five year grant by the Wellcome Foundation to examine these issues in a new Centre for the Study of Incentives in Health (CSI), which will be launched officially in April 2009. CSI will be multi-disciplinary, embracing the perspectives of economics, psychology and ethics, and will be multi-institutional, spread over the LSE, Kings College and Queen Mary College and with collaborators in national and international universities, the Department of Health, NICE and the King's Fund, among others.
CSI will also employ three post-doctoral fellows and three PhD students, with one of each type being based at each of the three university sites, and the Centre will be supported by an international advisory board, comprising of Shalini Bharat, Mary Boulton, Larry Brown, Bruno Frey, Marie Johnston, Julian Le Grand, Michael Marmot, Onora O'Neill, Richard Ryan and Jonathan Wolff.
More information on the new centre can be found at: