A conversation I feel like I have all the time usually involves one of us saying at some point, “It’s not that healthy foods are too expensive, it’s that crappy food is too cheap!” And then we talk about farm subsidies and wax on about how nice it would be if fruits & veggies were subsidized by the government or if consumers were offered some sort of incentive to buy more good-for-you stuff, since potential prevention of chronic disease doesn’t exactly seem to be selling, like, apples.
A South African study where members of Discovery Health, the country’s largest private health insurance company, are provided rebates of 10% or 25% on healthful foods has shown some promise. The program involves 800 supermarkets and 260,000 households. Researchers are finding that lowering the cost on items such as produce, whole grains, nonfat dairy items (a ~6,000-item list drawn up by nutritionists, doctors and others), purchase of these nutrient-dense foods increased. These foods are marked in grocery stores so consumers can locate them.
Roland Sturm, a study co-author and a senior economist at the nonprofit research organization Rand, noted that changes were proportional to the price changes, but said in a statement. “When there is a large gap between people’s actual eating behaviors and what nutritionists recommend, even a 25% price change closes just a small fraction of that gap.”
Cheers to that. While there’s no evidence that participating in the program reduces incidence of obesity, it’s still encouraging. While I’d encourage anyone to work toward a healthy body weight for their height and frame, it’s still better to be well-nourished than not.
Man, I wish my insurance company offered me rebates on produce. I realize this is the second post in, like, 3 days in which I wistfully mention something I’d like my insurance to help out with. I know I should be thankful I have it at all, but sometimes I feel like some suit in an office somewhere is laughing at me.
Do you think rebates on healthy food would be effective here? If you have it, what do you wish your health insurance covered?
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