UK Government Set To Give Overweight People Free Fitbits And Discounts In Bid To Tackle Obesity
The UK government is launching a new pilot scheme offering incentives and financial rewards to people who lose weight.
Health officials are reportedly looking to trial giving overweight and obese adults supermarket discounts and free prescription Fitbits to encourage healthier lifestyles as part of the six-month scheme, which is set to launch at the start of next year.
The Health Incentives scheme is the latest attempt from the government to tackle obesity by encouraging people to live healthier lifestyles, and could also see the launch of a ‘national steps challenge’, inspired by a similar scheme in Singapore that encouraged people to log their steps using digital pedometers.
According to The Telegraph, the pilot program is expected to cost £6 million, however this is small change compared to the massive £6 billion obesity-related illnesses cost the NHS each year. Last year, health officials revealed that if every overweight person in the UK lost 5lbs, the NHS could save as much as £100 million.
It’s estimated that a shocking two-thirds of UK adults are either overweight or obese, as well as one-third of all UK children. Obesity is a contributing factor to a number of serious health conditions later in life, including heart disease, diabetes and arthritis, while a study has also found that obesity increases the risk of dying from COVID-19 by as much as 50%.
Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, told The Telegraph last year that the pandemic had highlighted the need to tackle obesity and other unhealthy behaviours.
‘Tackling them will bring huge social and economic benefits,’ he said. ‘Covid has shown that health is an absolutely critical component of economic growth and equality and cannot be ignored.’
Experts have said that obesity is linked to wider health inequalities, with people from low income backgrounds more likely to be overweight. A 2019 government report found that children from low income backgrounds were twice as likely to be overweight as children from higher income backgrounds.
According to Sir Keith Mills, who is advising the NHS on the pilot, health incentives could become a ‘vital tool in the Government’s plans to tackle health inequalities and encourage healthier behaviours’.
‘This government is committed to improving the health of everyone, and we want to make it easier for people to increase their physical activity and eat better,’ said Public Health Minister Jo Churchill.
‘The Health Incentives scheme will help us understand the role that rewards and incentives could play in helping people lead healthy lives.’
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