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Randomised controlled trial of alternative messages to increase enrolment in a healthy food programme among individuals with diabetes

We compared the effectiveness of diabetes-focused messaging strategies at increasing enrolment in a healthy food programme among adults with diabetes. Vitality is a multifaceted wellness benefit available to members of Discovery Health, a South Africa-based health insurer. One of the largest Vitality programmes is HealthyFood (HF), an incentive-based programme designed to encourage healthier diets by providing up to 25% cashback on healthy food purchases. We randomised adults with type 2 diabetes to 1 of 5 arms: (1) control, (2) a diabetes-specific message, (3) a message with a recommendation of HF written from the perspective of a HF member with diabetes, (4) a message containing a physician’s recommendation of HF, or (5) the diabetes-specific message from arm 2 paired with an ‘enhanced active choice'(EAC). In an EAC, readers are asked to make an immediate choice (in this case, to enrol or not enrol); the pros and cons associated with the preferred and non-preferred options are highlighted. HF enrolment was assessed 1 month following the first emailed message. We randomised 3906 members. After excluding those who enrolled in HF or departed from the Vitality programme before the first intervention email, 3665 (94%) were included in a modified intent-to-treat analysis. All 4 experimental arms had significantly higher HF enrolment rates compared with control (p<0.0001 for all comparisons). When comparing experimental arms, the diabetes-specific message with the EAC had a significantly higher enrolment rate (12.6%) than the diabetes-specific message alone (7.6%, p=0.0016). Messages focused on diabetes were effective at increasing enrolment in a healthy food programme. The addition of a framed active choice to a message significantly raised enrolment rates in this population. These findings suggest that simple, low-cost interventions can enhance enrolment in health promoting programmes and also be pragmatically tested within those programmes. NCT02462057.

Authors: Gopalan A; Paramanund J; Shaw PA; Patel D; Friedman J; Brophy C; Buttenheim AM; Troxel AB; Asch DA; Volpp KG

BMJ Open. 2016 11 30;6(11):e012009. Epub 2016-11-30.

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