Government proposes financial incentives as a solution for obesity problems

The Government is planning to promote healthy living by giving financial incentives for obese people to loose weight.

Alan Johnson, health secretary and Ed Balls, secretary of state for children, schools and families, say the Government wants to use the workplace as an environment for the improvement of the nation’s health.

Ministers say they want stronger incentives for individuals and employers to improve health and will explore how companies can best promote good health among their staff and make healthy workplaces part of their core business model.

It also says it will pilot and evaluate a range of different approaches to using personal financial incentives to encourage healthy living.

Launching the policy initiative ministers praised two weight loss competitions run by British employers. One firm had a “Biggest Loser” scheme, an eight-week individual weight loss competition. The man and woman who achieved the greater percentage weight loss received 130 in shopping vouchers, while the man and woman who lost the most weight circumference got 30 each. Participants lost up to 6.4 per cent of their weight.

The Foresight report on obesity, published last year, indicated that on current trends nearly 60 per cent of the UK population will be obese by 2050.

Johnson says: “Tackling obesity is the most significant public and personal health challenge facing our society.”

Shaun Matisonn, chief executive of PruHealth which has been giving financial rewards to customers who lead healthier lifestyles, says: “Central to the growing obesity challenge is the need to engage the public and effect a change in people’s behaviour. Many of the barriers to healthy activity in everyday life can be overcome by a mixture of providing useful information for people to make day to day decisions and financial incentives to motivate people.”