And now a lesson in carrots and sticks, courtesy of our friends from across the pond. Earlier this year, the British National Health Service (NHS) began sending home report cards to students it deemed to be overweight. But the soulless bureaucracy used flawed “Body Mass Index” measurements to determine obesity. So perfectly healthy and trim children ended up receiving letters scolding them for their baby fat.
Now the government is trying a gentler approach. You know that parent who gives his child a dollar so the kid will stop crying? That's the UK’s grand new idea for fighting fatness:
Under the new proposals, which will form part of the public health white paper, children will receive Topshop vouchers and cinema tickets for choosing to travel to school on foot.
According to the Daily Telegraph, schools around the country will be offered access to technology allowing pupils to use swipe cards to track their journeys and collect rewards.
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Critics of the scheme, however, have described it as bribery and questioned its cost.
Let's first give credit where credit is due: The idea is the brain child of Andrew Lansley, Britain's new health secretary. Lansley has expressed a desire to ease regulation on food and beverage companies. He even went so far as to shut down Britain's Food Standards Agency after it campaigned for "traffic light" warning labels on food packages (although not quickly enough to prevent our own Marion Nestle from being inspired by the idea).
Lansley's most recent white paper claims he wants the state to be "less intrusive" when it comes to public health. But then he calls for the government to "nudge" people in the right direction and change "social norms" surrounding obesity -- a slippery slope if there ever was one.
We suppose bribing children is one way of nudging them. But ultimately the British government is wasting tax dollars (er … pounds) and usurping the parents’ role in their children's health.