UK government mulling social rewards program to combat obesity: report

UK government mulling social rewards program to combat obesity: report
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is reportedly looking to develop a social rewards program that could aid in the health ministry’s ongoing efforts to combat obesity in the country. 

British newspaper The Telegraph on Friday reported that Johnson has brought in Keith Mills, who helped run the London Olympics, to launch the national initiative, which could reportedly include a system through which “loyalty points” can be earned based on citizens’ healthy lifestyle commitments. 

According to The Telegraph, family supermarket spending would be monitored under the program, with those who reduce calorie intake and buy more fruits and vegetables rewarded with points. 

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People could also earn points by increasing their exercise in organized events or walking to school, the news outlet reported. 

Potential prizes for accumulated loyalty points include shopping vouchers and discounts, as well as free tickets and other incentives. 

The reported plan, which The Telegraph said is set to launch in January, comes as the outgoing head of the United Kingdom’s (U.K.) National Health Service (NHS), Lord Stevens, said Friday that health officials could struggle to address illnesses in the future if obesity is not immediately addressed. 

Johnson himself has brought attention to the issue of obesity, saying in March that he believed his weight contributed to his stay in intensive care after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Johnson said at the time that he was “doing all I can to lose weight,” adding that he had been cutting out carbs and “late night cheese.”

Health experts have said that individuals who are overweight are at risk for greater complications from COVID-19. 

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The Hill has reached out to the U.K.'s Department of Health and Social Care for comment on the reported plans. 

The British government previously announced in March that it would be offering financial rewards up to $700,000 for overweight or obese people to go on weight management courses. 

Johnson said at the time that while “losing weight is hard,” 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 take pressure off the NHS,” he added, according to The Guardian

Last month, the U.K.'s health department said it would be banning TV and online ads that promote junk food before 9 p.m. and this week announced that it would be restricting unhealthy food promotions in stores starting October 2022.