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Officials exploring ‘cash for exercise’ to tackle obesity epidemic

·3-min read

Watch: Ministers enlist Olympic hero in £6bn fight against obesity

Health officials are to examine whether paying people to exercise could help drive down levels of obesity.

Sir Keith Mills , who founded the Air Miles and Nectar customer loyalty programmes, is to advise the Government on how to develop a new way to use incentives and rewards to support people to eat healthy diets and do more physical activity.

Part of his work will include looking at schemes from around the world which have been successful in getting people fit and eating better.

This includes the step challenge in Singapore, a nationwide physical activity programme aimed at encouraging people to do more physical activity with financial incentives.

It comes as the Government announced a £100 million package to help drive down levels of obesity.

It said that more than £70 million will be invested in weight management services – made available through the NHS and councils – enabling up to 700,000 adults to have access to support that can help them to lose weight.

The remaining £30 million will fund initiatives to help people maintain a healthy weight, including the Better Health campaign, behavioural weight management services and upskilling health workers in “early years services”.

It comes as the UK faced criticism over its high levels of both obesity and Covid-19 deaths.

Being obese increases a person’s risk of dying from Covid-19 or severe disease, as well as a number of other health problems.

About 63% of adults in England are overweight or obese and one in three children starting secondary school are considered overweight.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has lost weight himself after becoming unwell with Covid-19, said: “Losing weight is hard, but making small changes can make a big difference.

“Being overweight increases the risk of becoming ill with Covid.

“If we all do our bit, we can reduce our own health risks – but also help take pressure off the NHS.

“This funding will give extra support to people across the country who want to lose weight too.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: “The urgency of tackling obesity has been brought to the fore by evidence of the link to an increased risk from Covid-19, so it’s vital we take action on obesity to protect the NHS and improve our nation’s health.”

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “Living with obesity can have a devastating impact on people’s health and wellbeing in so many ways, not least its link this year to the increased risk from Covid.

“This investment will greatly boost services for adults struggling with their weight and raising the profile of our Better Health campaign will help to support more people to make healthier choices.”

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