Creating Incentives to Improve Population Health

Article citation

Lewis, S. (2010). Creating Incentives to Improve Population Health. Preventing Chronic Disease: Public Health, Research, Practice and Policy, 7(5), 1-4. 0175.htm


The topic of the article is “Creating Incentives to Improve Population Health.”

Study questions

  1. The key questions that are raised in the article include the following:
  2. How do communities improve the healthcare of their populations?
  3. How do societies come to take the improvement of populations’ health seriously?


The author states that improving healthcare is a challenging task and making sure that a population is healthy is even more challenging. According to the analysis in the article, the following could be confirmed. The paper shows that freeing up resources by increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of care does not necessarily mean improved healthcare for the general population. It also shows that pay for performance models used in healthcare is attractive in theory but difficult in practice. Some problems associated with the model include moral hazards and methodological difficulties. The article also shows that health status variability is inevitable as individuals choose different ways of life which lead to different healthcare outcomes in later life. The argument is that if the population’s health is to improve, then society must give up some social goods.

The data in the article shows that experiences in other sectors of the economy, such as education show that incentives (the main focus of the paper) could have unforeseen effects. Creating incentives that are particular to a specific situation is difficult. Policies that are set in place could help improve the health of the general public if at all, they were taken more seriously. The author gives an example of food stumps, where 67% of the people eligible for the program are not enrolled in such programs.

Key findings

On the issues of incentives, some authors propose that as evidence of their importance becomes more compelling, then the policymakers will have no option than to make the right decision. The links between the policies that create incentives and the outcome of the populations’ health are not well documented. The author argues that case studies, mass demonstration projects and evaluations will have the intended effect on politics and society, therefore leading to the intended change. The article also proofs through experience that narrowing the health disparities in a population is very difficult. The society is also very limited in the understanding of the factors that would produce better results in the health of the population. The conclusion is that there is no strong political will or commitment to support efforts aimed at improving the health of the population. The author views that if the middle class is persuaded to support policies that enhance the health of the population, then the government might respond to such policies.

The article suggests that the approach to population health should be tailored towards mechanizing the actions of the society as the society could be the only solution to improving the health of the population. The above is achieved through supporting community-level incentives which will enable such communities to pursue their healthcare goals. Suppose the federal government offered municipalities prizes for achieving set population health goals in a specified period. In that case, there is a possibility that the politician and policymakers will work hard towards earning such a prize. Such incentives will make community members, business people, government officials and leaders to take the health of the population more seriously.


A population’s health is a crucial ingredient towards a successful economy. Most economies that are seen as successful have high levels of population health. The main aim of improving healthcare is to improve the general health status of the population. It is, however, not clear whether healthcare reforms and other healthcare policies have an impact on the populations’ health. Incentives offered to members of the community could be the missing element in optimizing the quality of the populations’ health. The health of the population is the issue of the community, and they should be left to figure out n best ways to achieve their population health goals but with the help of incentives.

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