Columnist Michael Levin: Pepsico May be Our Guru on How to Reduce Behavior-based Healthcare Costs

Summary: Did you know that Pepsico is threatening to move all its operations out of New York if the state passes a “sin-tax” on soda pop? Integrator columnist Michael Levin recognized in this story that the giant firm has a rather strong perspective on whether economic incentives can be a powerful stimulus for behavior change. Levin uses the story to wade into questions raised in a recent British Medical Journal article on what it will take for people to make healthy decisions. Fascinating piece. Levin invites you to weigh in on the topic.

Columnist Michael Levin: Pepsico May be Our Guru on How to Reduce Behavior-based Healthcare Costs


Summary:  Did you know that Pepsico is threatening to move all its operations out of New York if the state passes a “sin-tax” on soda pop? Integrator columnist Michael Levin recognized in this story that the giant firm has a rather strong perspective on whether economic incentives can be a powerful stimulus for behavior change. Levin uses the story to wade into questions raised in a recent British Medical Journal article on what it will take for people to make healthy decisions. Fascinating piece. Levin invites you to weigh in on the topic.  

Send your response to Levin’s question to
johnweeks@theintegatorblog.com


for inclusion in a future Integrator.



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Michael Levin

Integrator columnist Michael Levin has a knack for spotting thorny issues and bringing them forward. Here he first reviews a British Medical Journal article which found consumers not very moved to make changes in their habits, despite much information on cancer risks. Levin juxtaposes this with an article on how Pepsico is battling with legislators in the state of New York to stop legislation to add a “sin-tax” on soft-drinks. Levin wonders whether Pepsico’s fear of sales losses should be an insight into effective public policy: If we want to change behavior, perhaps taxing/economic incentives may be more powerful than coaching or education.

Levin’s professional work includes executive positions with both Big Pharma and companies in the dietary supplement industry. Among his other interests, Levin is an outspoken proponent of quality control initiatives in the dietary supplement industry.
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Promoting Healthy
Behaviors to Reduce Healthcare Costs: 
Do
We Educate or Tax?

 

Michael D. Levin,
Health Business Strategies

Excluding environmental issues for the moment, US healthcare
costs are largely driven by treating preventable chronic diseases caused by
poor lifestyle choices in our aging population.

The strategy of wellness
coaching is being championed by certain thought leaders as a cure for our
financial woes. While there is certainly an important place for education,
coaching alone will not change the public behavior.

Economic incentives,
however, will.

   
    “They want more information,
but when they
get it
they don’t do anything about it.”

Karol Sikora, Medical Director,
CancerPartnersUK

The BBC reported on April 6th the results of a
survey
performed on 1000 adults. They found that “two thirds of people have not changed their
diet or lifestyle to reduce the risk of cancer.” Although 48% of women said they
“knew enough about cancer symptoms” and 45% of all surveyed reporting they had
“enough information on all of the four most common forms” of cancer, still more
than a third polled said “they tried to ignore cancer or hardly ever think
about it.”

Of course, the vast majority would run to their doctor immediately
if they experienced signs of cancer. In this example, education alone clearly was
ineffective in changing behaviors and, by extension, was ineffective in
reducing future costs.

Professor Karol Sikora, medical director of
CancerPartnersUK, put it this way: “They want more information, but when they
get it they don’t do anything about it.”

   
 Meantime, faced with a tax on soft drinks

in MNew York, Pepsico is threatening to pull
out of the
state. They know taxes, not

education, will reduce consumption.


 

Back on our side of the pond, the New England Journal of
Medicine
article
which argued that a 10% tax on soda and similar drinks could
cut consumption by 10% has Pepsico threatening the state of New York. The battle lines have been
drawn. Pending legislation which would place a state tax on sweetened beverages
prompted Pepsico to tell New York: if you do that, we’re pulling out of your
state and (horror of horrors) taking those jobs and tax revenues elsewhere. Pepsico is playing hardball!

Hmmm. Pepsico knows the truth:  taxes, not education, reduces consumption.

I’ve long agreed with Pepsi – economics drives consumer
behaviors.  Education informs, but does
produce meaningful behavior change. Education without economics will not, in my
view, reduce healthcare costs or meaningfully increase healthy choices in our population.

What do you think?


Michael D. Levin, Founder
Health Business Strategies
12042 SE Sunnyside Road
Clackamas, OR  97015

503-753-3568 (direct)
503-698-7565 (fax)

mdlhps@eathlink.net


Comment: Levin’s answer is in the current choices of our population. Yes, the number of “educational” messages in our culture from Pepsico and its ilk to consume their products is something like infinitely more than healthy eating messages. Yes, most people certainly have had not had the luxury of a personal health coach to assist them through lifestyle changes. Yes, it would be great if our medical system was actrually a healthcare system in which such life-change interventions were prioritized.
Still, one has to believe that the message of diet and lifestyle as a contributor to health and disease has reached most people. Here we are, still awfully unhealthy, as a population, in our choices. I’m with Levin. Tax away. Besides, raising prices on unhealthy foods and drinks makes healthier fare more competitive. 

Send your reponse to Levin’s question to
johnweeks@theintegatorblog.com

for inclusion in a future Integrator.



 


Send your comments to
johnweeks@theintegratorblog.com

for inclusion in a future Your Comments Forum.
John Weeks Written by John Weeks

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