Goal-directed versus outcome-based financial incentives for weight loss among low-income patients with obesity: Rationale and design of the Financial Incentives for Weight Reduction (FIReWoRk) randomised controlled trial

Melanie Jay, Stephanie L. Orstad, Soma Wali, Judith Wylie-Rosett, Chi Hong Tseng, Victoria Sweat, Sandra Wittleder, Suzanne B. Shu, Noah J. Goldstein, Joseph A. Ladapo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

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Introduction Obesity is a major public health challenge and exacerbates economic disparities through employment discrimination and increased personal health expenditures. Financial incentives for weight management may intensify individuals' utilisation of evidence-based behavioural strategies while addressing obesity-related economic disparities in low-income populations. Trials have focused on testing incentives contingent on achieving weight loss outcomes. However, based on social cognitive and self-determination theories, providing incentives for achieving intermediate behavioural goals may be more sustainable than incentivising outcomes if they enhance an individual's skills and self-efficacy for maintaining long-Term weight loss. The objective of this paper is to describe the rationale and design of the Financial Incentives foR Weight Reduction study, a randomised controlled trial to test the comparative effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of two financial incentive strategies for weight loss (goal directed vs outcome based) among low-income adults with obesity, as well as compared with the provision of health behaviour change resources alone. Methods and analysis We are recruiting 795 adults, aged 18-70 years with a body mass index ≥30 kg/m 2, from three primary care clinics serving residents of socioeconomically disadvantaged neighbourhoods in New York City and Los Angeles. All participants receive a 1-year commercial weight loss programme membership, self-monitoring tools (bathroom scale, food journal and Fitbit Alta HR), health education and monthly check-in visits. In addition to these resources, those in the two intervention groups can earn up to 750 over 6 months for: (1) participating in an intensive weight management programme, self-monitoring weight and diet and meeting physical activity guidelines (goal-directed arm); or (2) a ≥1.5% to ≥5% reduction in baseline weight (outcome-based arm). To maximise incentive efficacy, we incorporate concepts from behavioural economics, including immediacy of payments and framing feedback to elicit regret aversion. We will use generalised mixed effect models for repeated measures to examine intervention effects on weight at 6, 9 and 12 months. Ethics and dissemination Human research protection committees at New York University School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) David Geffen School of Medicine and Olive-View-UCLA Medical Center granted ethics approval. We will disseminate the results of this research via peer-reviewed publications, conference presentations and meetings with stakeholders. Trial registration number NCT03157713.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere025278
JournalBMJ open
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019



  • BMI
  • behavioral economics
  • behavioral intervention
  • cost-effectiveness
  • health behavior change
  • health disparities
  • overweight
  • physical activity
  • quality of life
  • self-monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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