AAFP Foundation to Use Behavioral Economics to Fight Chronic Disease

Diabetes-focused Program to Kick Off in Birmingham, Ala.

November 30, 2011 06:00 pm News Staff

Behavioral economics may not be the "magic bullet" when it comes to actually "curing" chronic disease, but the AAFP Foundation is betting that applying this approach -- which integrates economics with psychology and behavioral science to examine the systematic ways in which people make economic and other choices -- to patients with diabetes can help trigger interest in healthier lifestyle choices in communities across the nation and, thus, prevent much of the morbidity that accompanies these conditions.

[Behavioral Economics Summary Report Cover]

That's one outcome from the AAFP Foundation's recently released Behavioral Economics Roundtable on Diabetes Summary Report(www.aafpfoundation.org), which examines how the theory can better address the social and environmental nature of diabetes.

The report -- the result of a June gathering of 30-plus primary care physicians and other health care professionals, economists, scientists, and government officials that was made possible by support from Sanofi US -- asserts that behavioral economics provides a different, more informed approach to dealing with chronic health issues by mixing economics, psychology and behavioral science together to study and influence the ways people make the choices they make.

"Based on the findings in our report, the AAFP Foundation will develop and implement a community-based program in Birmingham, Ala., to bring together a coalition of patients and caregivers to curb the rise of diabetes," says Richard Roberts, M.D., J.D., president of the AAFP Foundation, in a recent news release(www.aafpfoundation.org). "We believe that behavioral economics is a starting point for finding a solution to better managing diabetes care at the grassroots level."

story highlights

  • The AAFP Foundation has released a new report that summarizes how behavioral economics can be used to help family physicians better manage patients with diabetes.
  • The foundation is setting up a pilot program in Birmingham, Ala., to test the report's findings.
  • The report notes that if the pilot is successful, there is potential to use the model to improve health outcomes for a range of chronic conditions that reduce quality of life and drive up health care costs.

The release also notes that CDC officials have predicted that, if left unchecked, the growing burden of diabetes in the United States "will cost the country an estimated $340 billion by the end of 2011, consuming 10 percent of the nation's share of health expenditures."

Ultimately, the project seeks to create a model that can be replicated in other communities, including enabling them to identify ways to encourage healthier lifestyles for everyone.

"If progress can be made on diabetes," the report states, "there is great potential to use this model to improve health outcomes for a range of chronic conditions that reduce people's quality of life and drive up health care costs.

"As patients become more aware of the behaviors that must be changed related to their own disease, there is hope that families and communities can achieve more healthy lives, as well."

AAFP Foundation: Cities for Life(www.aafpfoundation.org)