The push me, pull you of financial incentives and health inequalities: a mixed methods study investigating smoking cessation in pregnancy and breastfeeding

Hoddinott, Pat, Morgan, Heather, Thomson, Gillian, Crossland, Nicola, Farrar, Shelley, Yi, Deokhee, Hislop, Jenni, Moran, Victoria Louise orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-3165-4448, MacLennan, Graeme et al (2014) The push me, pull you of financial incentives and health inequalities: a mixed methods study investigating smoking cessation in pregnancy and breastfeeding. The Lancet, 384 (S2). S37. ISSN 01406736

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Financial incentives are increasingly considered to address socially patterned behaviours like smoking in pregnancy and breastfeeding. We investigated their mechanisms of action in relation to health inequalities to inform incentive intervention design.

The evidence syntheses we undertook were incentive effectiveness, delivery processes, barriers and facilitators to smoking cessation in pregnancy and also breastfeeding; and incentives for lifestyle behaviours. We searched Medline, Embase, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Web of Science, the Cochrane Library (all sections), MIDIRS, ASSIA, and the Trials Register of Promoting Health Interventions for studies published in English between Jan 1, 1990, and March 31, 2012, using a range of natural language, MeSH, and other index terms. Surveys were done with 1144 respondents from the general public and with 497 maternity and early-years health professionals. Qualitative interviews and focus groups were conducted with pregnant women, recent mothers, and partners in three UK settings (n=88); and with 53 service providers, 24 experts and decision makers, and 63 conference attendees. A discrete choice experiment (DCE) was conducted with 320 female current or ex-smokers.

Systematic reviews raised concerns about the reach of incentives, particularly to marginalised groups. Baseline characteristics for people who were eligible, approached, and recruited to studies were under-reported. Sample sizes were mostly small. Surveys revealed mixed acceptability. Less educated, white British, and women general public respondents disagreed (odds ratios [OR] 0·5≤OR<1·0) particularly with smoking cessation incentives. Universal incentives (55% net agreement) were preferred to targeting low income women (49% net agreement). DCE results showed that incentives, a quitting pal, and initial text or telephone support were statistically significant in increasing the reported likelihood that women would quit. Conflicting narratives of women's emotional, social and material environments and the push and pull of incentives were voiced. For some, unrestricted shopping vouchers offered rare opportunities for choice, reward for effort, and feeling valued amidst adversity. Women struggle on their own, even concealing behaviour, especially when people in personal networks smoke or formula feed. However layers of autonomy were revealed, with varying levels of resistance to the nanny state, and feeling judged, pressure, and stigma. How incentive interventions fit with life's challenges were incorporated into a logic model.

Financial incentives can help some women, but whether they will address inequalities is unclear because of concerns about reach and resistance to being pushed and pulled.

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