London's Westminster Council has come up with a drastic plan to help end the UK's growing obesity problem: cutting benefits for any obese person who refuses to exercise.
Under the proposals, doctors would be able to "prescribe" exercise such as swimming or fitness classes. Those who refused to attend penalized. Smart cards would used to monitor attendance.
The plan is described in detail in a report titled "A Dose of Localism: The Role of Councils in Public Health".
The hope is that by fighting obesity the UK's taxpayer funded health service can save £5 billion ($8.12 billion). The report was created as public health responsibility shifts from the NHS to local government later this year.
Reaction to the plan seems to be leaning on the negative side. British Medical Association GP committee chairman Dr Lawrence Buckman told the BBC that the plans were "some of the silliest things I've heard in a long time".
"When I was first told about this I thought it was a joke," Dr Buckman said.
Alex Thomson, chief executive think-tank Localis believes that the concept simply wouldn't work. "Even if you check into the pool how will they know if you just sit and have a latte in the café instead?" Thomson told the Telegraph.
Finally, over at the New Statesman, Martha Gill points to some analysis that explains why punishing fat people just doesn't work.
"Part of the problem is that a great deal of those who have problems with their weight are not cheerfully waiting for sufficient motivation to become thinner," Gill writes. "They are unhappy with their size already, which can make the problem worse - compulsive eating is a common reaction to stress."
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