‘Should the Government pay obese people to lose weight?’

The notion of obesity has been an underlying problem in Western society ever since the development of capitalism. Overweight, unhealthy individuals have become an icon of economic prosperity, but have brought about a barrage of problems; both for themselves and for society as whole. It is estimated that around 24% of adults in the UK are obese, and the World Health Organisation further predicts that around 74% of men and 63% of women will be obese by 2030. The National Health Service, is plagued with claims concerning various health defects that have arisen due to obesity, thus, is powerless to deal with often more harmful and detrimental illnesses. Hence, the government has often been pressurised to take greater measures to impede the rise of obesity, with one plausible solution being to offer a financial incentive to avert the individuals from succumbing to obesity.

Offering a financial stimulant to obese families will incentivise them to eat healthily albeit to a certain extent. It is common knowledge that obesity is prevalent in families who typically have a low amount of disposable income to spend on food, which drives them to excessively consume foods that are instant, due to the seemingly low cost. Thus, the financial incentive may drive them to consume healthier foods that in-turn may result in less claims for the NHS. The additional funds that are pumped into the NHS to deal with obesity related diseases could instead be utilised to incentivise these families. This would further be economically beneficial for these families and thus, could bring about benefits for both the individuals and the government.

Certain individuals however, may perceive that introducing schemes to impede obesity may be preventing individuals from consuming what they want. Contrary to this however, many may hold the view that it is simply a ‘nudge,’ from the government to cultivate a healthier society. A healthier society will further bring about greater societal benefits, such as a more innovative and efficient work force, which will be beneficial economically also.

On the other hand, when implementing policies to economically incentivise the families, there are an array of problems that may arise. How much they should be paid, how frequently should they be paid it, and who is eligible? These matters will need ample consideration which will take both time and resources to implement. Abuse of the scheme will further need tackling as there will be families who constantly receive the payments but fail to alter their diet. There would thus need to be constant regulators who ensure that the scheme fulfils its purpose. Establishing programs such as the Weight Watchers scheme to regulate one’s fluctuations in weight and issuing incentives based on improvements would enable the scheme to efficiently cultivate a healthier society. Although it will bring about significant costs in the short-run, the cost benefits in the long run will be significant both to society and to each individual; as a fruitful, active population will result in greater benefits to the NHS as less time and money would be spent on dealing with dietary sickness and there will further be less time taken off work.

The matter of obesity, the ongoing conundrum that has pervaded society has a resulting in a plethora of societal dilemmas. Thus, the government providing a financial incentive to combat the growing issues of obesity would, despite its potential adverse ramifications; bring about various advantages such as a healthier more productive workforce and less time and money for the NHS. Coupled with the pragmatic economic benefits such as greater taxation that’ll boost government funds, the overall benefits outweigh the potential detrimental consequences that with close monitoring can be avoided.


Contributed by Parampal Singh Sappal

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