Monday, August 20, 2007

Pay by the pound?

If you’re the mayor of a town and want to get people to lose weight, what would be the best way to do it?

Lecture people at public meetings? Install extra patrols in local restaurants to give out tickets for overeating? Tax junk food?

Gianluca Buonanno, an overweight mayor of a town in Italy that has 7,500 people, realized there was another way to encourage his citizens to lose weight.

The town of Varallo budged $13,000 and is also seeking sponsors to help provide financial incentives to people who lose weight and keep it off, according to an Associated Press story.

“Participants in the week-old Varallo initiative will be given $67 when they reach their ideal weight. If they don’t gain any weight back after five months, they will receive $268,” said the AP story. “If they maintain their ideal weight for a year, they will get $670 more. So far, 30 people have signed up…. Participants must present a medical certificate that they are overweight. They can choose to get help from a dietitian, who helps determine their ideal weight, and a personal trainer.”

Great idea. Not only will the community, businesses and families benefit from the health benefits of employees and family members losing weight, but as people get out more to exercise they probably build up a better sense of community.

If we applied the Italian idea here, the bigger questions are how much money would Americans want as incentive to lose weight? And who would pay the money?

Maybe health insurance companies could offer the incentive.

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