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Two Rutgers University educators have created Small Steps to Health and Wealth, an educational program designed to motivate people to change their behavior in ways that improve both their health and personal finances.
The educators are Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., a certified financial planner, and Karen Ensle, Ed.D., a registered dietician. O’Neill said she believed the program was the first long-term campaign that combines health and personal finance. She added that personal finance and health are usually discussed separately in events and publications,1 although there are good-practice parallels in both fields.2
Barbara O’Neill, Rutgers Cooperative Extension
O’Neill said that financial educators using the program might challenge people to make a daily commitment to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity and save or invest $5 or more. Presentations on how to use the materials have been given to about 1,000 cooperative extension agents and other financial educators.
The program includes two PowerPoint presentations for consumers, online registration and evaluation, and research on connections between health and personal finance.
O’Neill noted that government agencies and public-policy organizations have substantially increased their financial-education funding in the last two years. She also said employers are taking a greater interest in financial education because employees now have more responsibility for managing their health-care costs.
O’Neill, who focuses on the financial aspects of health issues, youth financial education, and farm-related financial needs, explained that she and Ensle developed the program after Rutgers Cooperative Extension shifted its primary adult consumer education focus from personal finance to health-related topics in 2003. She and Ensle were giving separate presentations on personal finance and health subjects at a 2004 conference when they realized there was a common need in both fields to motivate people to make changes in their lives.