Rewards mooted for people fighting the battle of the bulge

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Sydney, Jan 3 (UNI) Obese people should be financially rewarded by private health funds with such things as frequent flyer points and gym vouchers if they successfully undertake a monitored diet and exercise programme, a leading health economist has said.

In Britain, health insurers have reportedly begun slashing premiums, offering discounts of up to 75 per cent for members who go to the gym and watch their weight.

Australian legislation prohibits using premiums to discriminate, except for age, under the community rating system, but health funds could still provide better financial incentives to tackle obesity, Sydney Morning Herald quoted Dr Paul Gross, Director of the Institute of Health Economics and Technology Assessment as saying.

''Other funds around the world have found there are a number of ways of providing incentives to people where you don't have to pay cheaper premiums-- they could do something about it if they chose to,'' Dr Gross said.

He suggested bonuses such as gym membership, vouchers for sports equipment and frequent flyer points.

More than half of the Australian population (10.7 million) have private health cover.

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon declared last month that tackling obesity would be in the top three health priorities.

One in four Australian children and one in two adults were overweight or obese.

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