Health, Europe

UK to launch anti-obesity app next year

Two-thirds of UK adults overweight or obese, one-third of children overweight or obese by time they leave primary school

Karim El-Bar   | 22.10.2021
UK to launch anti-obesity app next year


The British government will launch a pilot anti-obesity Health Incentives Scheme in January 2022 via an app that will offer financial rewards in exchange for exercising and eating healthy.

The app will help people track their diet and physical activity, and will be linked to a Fitbit-style device that can make health suggestions, like increasing a person’s number of steps and eating more fruit and vegetables.

The app will enable people to earn points for increasing their level of exercise, by walking to work for example or going for a run. It will also enable people to track their supermarket shopping, and give rewards to people who buy fewer calories and more healthy food.

These points can then unlock rewards such as food vouchers, clothes, and gym passes, as well as discounts for shops, cinemas, and theme parks.

The pilot will run for six months in England at a location yet to be announced, after which point the government aims to roll out the scheme nationally.

The private health-tech firm HeadUp won the tender to deliver the scheme, and the government’s Department of Health will invest £3 million (over $4.1 million).

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I want to ensure we’re doing as much as we can to tackle health disparities across the country, and this new pilot will pave the way for developing innovative ways to improve the lives of individuals, and also help to reduce strain on the NHS.

“The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities is driving forward our levelling up agenda for health and ensuring prevention is a vital part of everything we do. This pilot is an excellent opportunity to find how best to inspire people to make small changes to their daily lives that will have a lasting positive impact on their health.”

The government has brought in Sir Keir Mills, who devised the Air Miles scheme, as an adviser.

Mills said: “This scheme is a fantastic opportunity to explore how government, business and the third sector can work together to deliver a new and engaging way of supporting the public to make healthier choices.

“Through the pilot we will have exciting and innovative partners on board will help motivate people to want to earn incentives, but also should help them overcome barriers to making healthy decisions in future. I’m looking forward to seeing how this scheme develops.”

According to local media, the government believes that the evidence suggests financial incentives can encourage people to eat more healthily and exercise more.

Around two-thirds of UK adults are overweight or obese, and one-third of children are overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school.

Obesity-related illnesses cost the NHS £6 billion per year, and the COVID-19 pandemic, during which the obese were at far greater risk of serious disease and death, further highlighted the importance of tackling Britain’s obesity crisis.

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