Engaging Business in Community-Based Well-being Programs

We identify and share innovations that can be used throughout the world to improve the health of people and the environments in which we live.

The goal of this research was to examine how anchor institutions can motivate and improve holistic well-being in their communities using their unique assets and expertise. In this case, a financial institution established a financial incentive to increase savings (promoting financial well-being) and to motivate engagement in activities at the YMCA (promoting social connectedness, physical and emotional well-being).

The Allegacy Federal Credit Union in North Carolina (Allegacy FCU) provided its members who sign up for the AllHealth incentive program with access to a higher rate of return in their savings account according to the number of times they visit the YMCA.

SHINE researchers surveyed individuals from 2017 through 2019 about their holistic well-being. We collected 4,296 surveys in 2017 and 1,448 of these individuals were re-surveyed in follow-up.

 Some of the main findings were:

  • The majority of the survey sample reported their financial well-being as problematic.
     
  • Financial well-being was correlated to overall well-being.
     
  • Income levels were extremely important to the state of financial fragility.
     
  • Households with accumulated savings of $400 or more were less prone to financial fragility but additional savings did not reduce financial fragility further.
     
  • Households declaring better ability to manage their finances and save were more likely to accumulate savings.
     
  • Women were more financially fragile.
     
  • The financial incentive program did not change savings rates or overall well-being in the study. This finding is most likely related to limitations in the actual roll-out of the intervention: a) incentive design: relatively low savings rate incentive compared to available market  options resulting in low enrollment in the incentive program b) recruitment strategy: enrollment in the financial savings program mainly targeted current YMCA rather than enlisting new YMCA members and most current members had already developed a schedule for YMCA activities.  A second wave of this program should consider implementing these changes.
     
  • Participants at the YMCA were motivated to engage in activities because they felt better after working out but also because of the sense of community they experienced at the YMCA. This result points to the social benefit from group or place-based activities.
     

Over all, we found that a financial savings instrument to incentivize place-based activity warrants further testing, albeit, at a higher savings rate and with some modifications in design and marketing between community partners considering these significant findings: financial well-being was strongly related to overall flourishing in our sample, a significant portion of the population was financially vulnerable, and savings behavior improved financial well-being on top of the effects of income.

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This project was funded as part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s solicitation, “Engaging Businesses for Health,” which seeks to build the evidence base for private-sector investment to help build a Culture of Health.