UK govt to offer incentives to reduce weight

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London, Jan 24: It may soon pay to be obese in the UK. The British government was considering plans to offer vouchers or cash to the overweight to lose their extra pounds. Ministers said the Health Service and employers could give vouchers to the overweight to spend on healthy food in supermarkets.

It was also suggested that the successful candidates may be given cash prizes. One fourth of the British adult population and one in five children are obese. Experts say that by 2050 at least 60 per cent of the population will be obese. Also on the anvil are plans to appoint ''lunchbox police'' at schools to monitor what students were eating. Ideas which were also examined include compulsory cookery lessons for pupils and at least five hours of school sport a week up from the present average of two hours.

There will be laws to limit the number of fast food joints near schools and parks and a new healthy food labelling regime would be in place for manufacturers of food items.

The 40-page report containing ideas to ''encourage actions now, thereby avoiding much larger costs in later years'' says: ''We need to rework the incentives for individuals and public bodies.'' ''In the US, for example, there is some evidence that small financial payments, as part of broader programmes to tackle obesity, have proven particularly effective in incentivising individuals to both achieve and maintain weight loss,'' the report said.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson and Schools Secretary Ed Balls launched the strategy yesterday which promises an extra 372 million pounds to help people live healthier lives.

''Tackling obesity is the most significant public and personal health challenge facing our society,'' the Daily Mail quoted Mr Johnson as saying.

''It is not the Government's role to hector or lecture people, but we do have a duty to support them in leading healthier lifestyles,'' he said.

About 30 million pounds of the extra funds will be spent on the creation of ''healthy towns'' to promote physical activity, and 75 million pounds will go on an advertising campaign to promote a healthy diet and exercise.


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