A new report from the Westminster Council in London, England, has stated that overweight or obese people could lose a fair amount of their benefits if they refuse to go to exercise classes or sessions.
The council believes that through embedding financial incentives they will be able to push forward an improvement in public health. From April this year, those who do participate in exercise sessions will not be seeing any slash in the amount of benefits received, whereas overweight people who do not will see a drop.
The report also revealed that GPs (general practitioners, primary care physicians) will be able to prescribe patients with activity plans that involve some sort of physical exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling.
This notion of telling obese people that they will lose state benefits may at first seem somewhat drastic, however, many politicians believe it to be necessary in order to reduce the amount of public spending and tackle the nation’s serious obesity epidemic.
The report said:
Several local authorities have introduced schemes that allow GPs to prescribe physical activities at local facilities including council swimmingpools, gyms, yoga and walking clubs. These schemes tend to have been delivered in partnership with PCTs.
Following the transfer of commissioning responsibilities to Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), local authorities will need to ensure that GPs are aware of the strength of the local authority in this area through their relationships with CCG Chairs on Health and Wellbeing Boards.
By focusing on early intervention techniques and rewarding people who take responsibility for their own health, the country should see a substantial drop in the prevalence of obesity.
Less red tape for places that are alcohol free
They also mentioned reducing regulation on smaller, non-alcoholic venues to try and improve the country’s ever-growing drinking problem.
Drinking is associated with numerous health issues, and pubs or clubs that sell bottled alcohol late at night encourage drinking; currently many councils have implemented restrictions on how these places can operate. For example, “happy hour” has been done away with in many parts of the country.
Red tape on venues that do not sell alcohol should be drastically reduced so that the general public may have healthier options when they go out, which is much more beneficial for the population.
Should governments tell us how to live our lives?
For many, this move is associated with an increased feeling that the UK is becoming more like a nanny state – a country where the government tells people how they should conduct their lives. However, the health benefits linked with the new report could be very significant and might justify the somewhat drastic change, so say the authors.
The review has suggested six new policy changes:
- Allow all young people and adults to make full use of their capabilities
- Create fair employment
- Develop healthy communities
- Ensure that every child has a good start in life
- Promote a healthy standard of living
- Strengthen ill health prevention
The report concludes:
“Public health presents a compelling challenge for local government. Issues such as obesity and diabetes exert an enormous toll in both financial and human terms.
The evidence presented in this report suggests that meeting these challenges will require local authorities to pioneer a bottom- up approach to public health improvement that is characterised by early intervention and co- production”.
Written by Joseph Nordqvist
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