​Behavioral Economics

Behavioral economics-based interventions strive to encourage or “nudge” people towards healthy choices via automation, defaults and system changes that remove psychological barriers. By making healthy choices the easier choices and eliminating obstacles to positive health decisions and behaviors, researchers and product developers can help facilitate better health behaviors for consumers.

The Behavioral Economics workgroups develop, implement, and evaluate research on how health professionals can interact with patients differently to overcome psychological barriers to behavior change and ultimately improve health outcomes. Researchers work closely with operations and coaching specialists at Envolve to design and implement behavior-based interventions or identify barriers patients face in adhering to treatment plans and develop interventions to mitigate these barriers. 

Current studies in this core focus on adult diabetic members and pediatric asthmatic populations. Insights from this work will be used to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of programs and services that help health plan members establish healthy behaviors and reduce unhealthy habits.
Dan Ariely, PhD, MA​​​
Faculty Director, Envolve Center for Health Behavior Change

Dan Ariely is a faculty director in the Envolve Center for Health Behavior Change, leading the Duke University effort on incorporating behavioral economics and social science into health-related behavioral modification programs. Ariely is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology & Behavioral Economics at Duke University and is dedicated to understanding the forces that influence our behavior in order to help people live more sensible – if not rational – lives. He is a founding member of the Center for Advanced Hindsight, co-creator of the film documentary (Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies, and a three-time New York Times bestselling author. His books include Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, and Irrationally Yours. Read more​.​

Michal Grinstein-Weiss,PhD, MSW, MA
Founding Director​​, Envolve Center for Health Behavior Change

Michal Grinstein-Weiss is the founding director and principal investigator for the Envolve Center for Health Behavior Change. She provides overall strat​egic organizational and scientific leadership for the Center along with the faculty directors and key staff at Envolve. She also serves as the faculty director in the Cen​ter’s Washington University Behavioral Economics workgroup. She is professor at the Brown School and associate director of the Center for Social Development. As a leading expert and researcher in social and economic mobility, Grinstein-Weiss is an influential voice in the design of behavior-based healthcare interventions and innovative social policies to promote household financial security, both in the United States and internationally. She has led successful large-scale research projects for federal, philanthropic, and industry partners and serves as a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Read her full faculty biography here.


The Studies

Financial Incentives Study

Can a lottery incentive improve participation in a pediatric asthma management program?

Lottery incentives have become an effective tool for increasing behavior change. This study tests the impact of a novel lottery incentive on member participation in a telephonically delivered pediatric asthma management program through Envolve. The research team will test whether the lottery incentive can significantly improve program participation and adherence while reducing the number of members who leave the program early. Evaluation of the study will compare the lottery incentive to a standard fixed incentive offered only at the end of the program. Insights from this study will enhance understanding of how to effectively use behavioral incentives to improve access to crucial health and wellness resources for Medicaid populations.

Automatic Enrollment

Can automatic enrollment improve participation in a pediatric asthma management program?

Automatic enrollment has been successfully used to improve participation in areas including voter registration, organ donation, and wellness program take-up. This study investigates automatic enrollment as a recruitment and retention tool in a pediatric asthma management program. Researchers are evaluating whether automatic enrollment vs. opt-in participation increases overall enrollment, participation, and program completion. Insights from this study will be used to inform the design of health and wellness program recruitment methods for Medicaid and at-risk populations.

Diabetes Retrospective Coaching Call Analysis

How can behavioral economics principles be applied to create a more effective health coaching program for diabetes patients?

This study focuses on identifying strategies to make health coaching programs more effective. It includes a retrospective analysis of health coaching calls between members of a diabetes management program and trained health coaches. Research aims to identify cognitive biases that hinder optimal behaviors and find the best ways to adjust programs to remove existing barriers to healthy behaviors. This analysis will be used as a foundation for future research efforts and could provide important evidence on the impact of applying behavioral economic theories to coaching programs.

comprehensive diabetes survey

What barriers and challenges do people face in managing their diabetes, and how can these be addressed to improve health outcomes?

Researchers are recruiting adult diabetic members from multiple health plans across the US to complete an online survey to assess their current lifestyle habits and diabetes management. Survey topics include nutrition, physical activity, and other lifestyle behaviors; daily diabetes management; and barriers that interfere with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This in-depth, formative survey will inform services and programs that address barriers and promote positive behavior change within Centene Corporation and Envolve and will also contribute more broadly to a better understanding of the challenges individuals living with diabetes face in daily diabetes management.

Nutrition improvement Study

Do variations on a traditional shopping list result in participants eating an increased variety and amount of fruits and vegetables?

This 3-month randomized controlled trial tests the effectiveness of a shopping list intervention in promoting increased consumption of a variety of fruits and vegetables to improve diabetes-related health outcomes. Researchers will compare a generic shopping list to a rainbow-colored list with shopping prompts and assess the differences in fruits and vegetables consumption and health-related indicators. The study will include 1,500 adult diabetic members from nine Centene health plans. In addition to being asked to use the lists when grocery shopping, participants will complete dietary recalls at baseline and follow up and provide information on their shopping habits to health coaches via phone throughout the intervention.