Should we pay children to eat healthy food?

Currently 1 in 4 people in the UK are classified as obese, with that figure rising to just above 1 in 3 for the US. It goes without saying that this is a huge burden on any public health endevour and a huge cost to any economy due to the morbidity associated with obesity. In efforts to curb health and obesity problems, governments, think tanks and research institutes are using progressively more aggressive approaches to instill healthy eating habits in children.

In a recent study, led by researchers from Brigham Young and Cornell University, a number of schools were given new standards which required them to serve a portion of fruits or vegetables to every student. Upon completion of the study it was reported that a shocking 70% of the students threw the food away.

In order to curb this waste, the researchers opted to conduct a second study in which students were given a modest monetary award for eating their portion of fruits and vegetables. These awards ranged from 5 cents to 25 cents and in some schools a raffle ticket for a bigger prize. To no surprise, consumption of fruits and vegetables increased by 80% and waste decreased by 33% in the schools that offered students a monetary incentive. From an economic stand point, this approach makes complete sense. The effective cost of getting the children to eat a portion of fruit or vegetables actually decreased from $1.72 to $0.35 in the scheme where the children were paid to eat the fruits and vegetables. Beyond this, if the practice has the capacity to decrease obesity rates, the investment would likely save the US government money due to a decreased burden on public health care services.

But is the bribery justified by benevolence? Could the monetary incentive crush internal motivation, or is this concern a non-factor given the severity of the situation in which we find ourselves in? Critically, if these incentives were to be rolled out, at what point should the incentive removed and how should the scheme be explained to children?

Researchers at Brigham Young and Cornell are currently conducting longer trials to ellucidate whether the incentive can yield lasting behaviour changes.

Aly Chiman

Aly Chiman is a Blogger & Reporter at AlyChiTech.com which covers a wide variety of topics from local news from digital world fashion and beauty . AlyChiTech covers the top notch content from the around the world covering a wide variety of topics. Aly is currently studying BS Mass Communication at University.

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