Jason Riis

Assistant Professor of Business Administration (Leave of Absence)

Jason Riis is a specialist in consumer health, a growing field at the intersection of consumer marketing and healthcare. In both industries, the central issue is behavior change. On the consumer marketing side, Professor Riis is examining the ways that food retailers and manufacturers can grow their businesses while making it easier for consumers to eat better. On the healthcare side, he is examining ways that healthcare payers and providers can better engage employees and patients in healthy behaviors. 

Jason Riis is a specialist in consumer health, a growing field at the intersection of consumer marketing and healthcare. In both industries, the central issue is behavior change. On the consumer marketing side, Professor Riis is examining the ways that food retailers and manufacturers can grow their businesses while making it easier for consumers to eat better. On the healthcare side, he is examining ways that healthcare payers and providers can better engage employees and patients in healthy behaviors. 

In his research, Professor Riis conducts field experiments, surveys, and lab studies using the methods and theories of psychology and behavioral economics. His research has appeared in top academic journals including Journal of Consumer Research, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, American Journal of Public Health, and Health Affairs. He has written HBS cases on food retailers H-E-B and Red Lobster and on health innovators PatientsLikeMe.

At HBS, he has taught the MBA Marketing course for 5 years and, has most recently, taught the new Global Immersion Field course. He has also taught in the Agribusiness and Managing Healthcare Delivery Executive Education programs.

Prior to joining HBS, Professor Riis was on the faculty at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He has also been a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Princeton University’s Center for Health and Wellbeing. He received his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Michigan.

  1. Getting the Most Out of Financial Incentives for Weight Loss

    The use of employer-sponsored, incentive-based programs for weight loss is growing. This growth is likely to accelerate in the coming years due to a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which allows employers to use a greater proportion of insurance premiums for this purpose. More high quality research on such incentive schemes is needed to understand both their effectiveness and their cost-effectiveness. Additionally, to get the most out of incentive schemes, employers should create workplace environments that make exercise and healthy eating easier.

    Annals of Internal Medicine
    , April 2013, Vol. 158, No. 7: 560–561

  2. H-E-B: Creating a Movement to Reduce Obesity in Texas

    In January 2012, H-E-B Grocery Co., a private retail chain with stores located in Texas and Mexico, was introducing its Healthy at H-E-B program to its customers. The program, which started with the company's employees a few years earlier, was an effort to educate and inform customers on how to lead a healthier lifestyle. What CEO Craig Boyan had in mind was creating a state-wide healthy living movement in Texas, where obesity was high relative to other states in the U.S. Some would say that H-E-B had no role in changing the lifestyle and food choices of its employees or customers. But Boyan and his team thought differently.

    HBS Case #512-034; April 3, 2012 
  3. Food Choices of Minority and Low-Income Employees: A Cafeteria Intervention

    Effective strategies are needed to address obesity, particularly among minority and low-income individuals. This research tested whether a two-phase point-of-purchase intervention improved food choices across racial, socioeconomic (job type) groups.

    American Journal of Preventive Medicine, September 2012, Vol. 43, No. 3: 240-248
  4. Inviting Consumers to Downsize Fast-Food Portions Significantly Reduces Calorie Consumption

    Policies that mandate calorie labeling in fast-food and chain restaurants have had little or no observable impact on calorie consumption to date. In three field experiments, an alternative approach was tested: activating consumers’ self-control by having servers ask customers if they wanted to downsize portions of three starchy side dishes at a Chinese fast-food restaurant. The research consistently found that 14-33% of customers accepted the downsizing offer. Overall, those who accepted smaller portions did not compensate by ordering more calories resulting in reduced calories served. The downsizing offer did not change the amount of uneaten food left at the end of the meal, so the calorie savings during purchasing translated into calorie savings during consumption.

    Health Affairs, February 2012, Vol. 31, No. 2: 399-407