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Fighting Obesity: The Wrong Way vs. The Right Way

2011.19.01

Erin Anderssen

From Saturday's Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Jan. 14, 2011 5:21PM EST
Last updated Friday, Jan. 14, 2011 5:37PM EST

SHAMING

Shock ads

Gross images of damaged organs. People drinking liquefied fat. Proponents says it's no different than cigarette ads. Critics says there's no evidence that it works, except to feed the stigma around obesity.

Mandatory waistlines

Japan introduced mandated waist measurements for citizens 40 to 74 years old, and requires companies to check compliance annually. Those who fail get compulsory diet advice and follow-up observation. Companies and local governments with too many failing citizens face fines.

Weight grades

Schools across the United States have adopted report cards that include the student's BMI (body mass index), even though many experts dispute the accuracy of the measurement in children. Kids who score too high get invited (along with their families) to fitness classes.

Pay up

Some airlines “encourage” obese passengers to buy a second seat (usually refunded if the plane is not full). A few just insist. (In Canada, a Supreme Court ruling that people can't be charged extra for a disability prevents airlines from taking this step.)

In Georgia, a salon owner charged overweight patrons an extra $5 for possible damage to her pedicure chairs.

Alabama decided that its state employers should pay a $25-a-month fat penalty for health insurance that is free to the thin.

NUDGING

Tax and spend

Last summer, Denmark, the first country to move ahead with a wide-ranging fat tax, raised the cost of sweets and soft drinks by 25 per cent. The prices of diet drinks went down. More taxes will roll out this year on duck, pork roast, butter and whipped cream.

Alternatively, some countries are looking at subsidizing their citizens to pay for healthy food and exercise.

The 'fun' theory

Entertain people and they will change their behaviour. In a Swedish subway station, Volkswagen sponsored motion-sensitive stairs that looked like piano keys and played music as people walked up and down them. In a single day, 66 per cent more people took the stairs, inspiring others to follow.

Walking for a profit

Students at two London schools can earn free movie tickets and shopping vouchers by walking to school. Along the route, they swipe cards through machines that record their route. The number of walking students increased by 18 per cent, and more got to class on time.

A similar program for teachers in San Antonio paid cash for points earned walking or hitting weight targets.

Shopping smarter

Studies have suggested that moving healthy choices to prominent, eye-level shelves and putting high-fat foods out of sight leads to better food choices. (Label information appears to primarily influence people who are already conscious of eating well.)

In New Mexico, shoppers made better choices when pushing grocery carts that were simply divided by yellow tape showing what portion of their groceries should be fruits and vegetables.

Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/fighting-obesity-the-wrong-way-vs-the-right-way/article1871144/

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