In a move proposed by the Westminster council, obese claimants could see their benefits reduced or increased according to how often they attempt to work out. The proposal was contained in a report called A Dose of Localism: The Role of Council in Public Health, and contained measures like allowances for physicians to prescribe swimming lessons or fitness classes. The move would be enforced by the use of smart cards, which would record every time a person checked in to a public leisure center. Measures would also include encouragement to drink responsibly - a smart move because, as reported earlier, alcohol contributes a lot of calories to consumers' diets.
The measures are advocated with the idea that preventative health measures will save lives and money. Westminster council leader Philippa Roe said, "This report contains exactly the sort of bright, forward-thinking and radical ideas that need to be looked at," according to BBC.
Indeed, because obesity increases the risk of various conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and dementia, the Department of Health estimates that it adds a burden of £5.1 billion, or about $8.3 billion. This cost is only set to increase; according to Reuters, the United Kingdom is the fifth most obese country in the world. The Telegraph reports that the UK is set to become a country in which the majority is obese by 2050.
However, not everyone is pleased with the measures. One physician called the measures "draconian and silly". Susannah Gilbert, the spokeswoman for obesity support group Big Matters, said, "It would be fairer to use the money to support people rather than to penalize people. Alex Thomson, the chief executive of the think tank Localis, said that the law would discriminate against people who choose to exercise in private. "Even if you check into the pool how will they know if you just sit and have a latte in the café instead?" he inquired.