The Fund supports several networks of state health policymakers to help identify, inspire, and inform policy leaders.
The Fund identifies and shares policy ideas and analysis on topics important to state health policymakers, particularly on issues related to state leadership, primary care, aging, and total costs of care.
Keep up with news and updates from the Milbank Memorial Fund. And read the latest blogs from our thought leaders, including Fund President Christopher F. Koller.
The Fund publishes The Milbank Quarterly, as well as reports, issues briefs, and case studies on topics important to health policy leaders.
The Milbank Memorial Fund is an endowed operating foundation that publishes The Milbank Quarterly, commissions projects, and convenes state health policy decision makers on issues they identify as important to population health.
June 2013 (Volume 91)
Michael R. Richards
Jody L. Sindelar
Back to The Milbank Quarterly
Context: American obesity rates continue to escalate, but an effective policy response remains elusive. Specific changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have been proposed as one way to improve nutrition and combat obesity among lower-income populations. While current SNAP proposals hold promise, some important challenges still remain.
Methods: We discuss the four most common recommendations for changes to SNAP and their benefits and limitations. We then propose three new delivery options for SNAP that take advantage of behavioral economic insights and encourage the selection of healthy foods.
Findings: Although the existing proposals could help SNAP recipients, they often do not address some important behavioral impediments to buying healthy foods. We believe that behavioral economics can be used to design alternative policies with several advantages, although we recognize and discuss some of their limitations. The first proposal rewards healthy purchases with more SNAP funds and provides an additional incentive to maintain healthier shopping patterns. The second proposal uses the opportunity to win prizes to reward healthy food choices, and the prizes further support healthier habits. The final proposal simplifies healthy food purchases by allowing individuals to commit their SNAP benefits to more nutritious selections in advance.
Conclusions: Reforming the delivery structure of SNAP’s benefits could help improve nutrition, weight, and overall health of lower-income individuals. We advocate for more and diverse SNAP proposals, which should be tested and, possibly, combined. Their implementation, however, would require political will, administrative capacity, and funding.
Author(s): Michael R. Richards and Jody L. Sindelar
Keywords: food stamps, SNAP, obesity, behavioral economics
Read on Wiley Online Library
Volume 91, Issue 2 (pages 395–412) DOI: 10.1111/milq.12017 Published in 2013
Get the Latest from the Milbank Memorial Fund
The Milbank Quarterly’s multidisciplinary approach and commitment to applying the best empirical research to practical policymaking offers in-depth assessments of the social, economic, historical, legal, and ethical dimensions of health and health care policy.