Could financial incentives that encourage fat people to lose weight solve the obesity crisis?by Liz Hollis / July 21, 2010 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2010 issue of Prospect Magazine
photo by Tobyotter
Academics have a new term for our fat-inducing society, with its vast portions and a push-button culture: “obesogenic.” Eight out of ten British men and seven out of ten women will be obese by 2020, according to a recent National Heart Forum report led by Klim McPherson at Oxford University. And the toll on public finances is growing in line with our girth: in England, obesity costs an estimated £4.2bn a year, or about 5 per cent of the English NHS budget. Some £2.3bn of this goes on treating obesity itself, the remainder is the cost of associated diseases such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and colorectal cancer. That figure will rise to £6.3bn by 2015 if no “effective action” is taken.
Decades of health information campaigns have failed to avert the crisis. Bariatric surgery (such as gastric bands), is the most effective long-term treatment, but it’s risky and expensive, costing over £5,000 per patient. Now, a controversial new strategy has arrived: paying fat people to lose weight. Such schemes are already well established in the US, and the first British trial has just finished in Kent.