After a report linked obesity to an increased risk of dying from COVID, health officials are now looking into paying people to exercise.
The report, from the World Obesity Federation, claims that around nine in 10 COVID deaths have occurred in countries with high obesity rates.
This includes the UK, which has the third-highest COVID death rate in the world and the fourth-highest obesity rate.
The government has now announced a £100 million package to help drive down levels of obesity and are now exploring whether to pay people to lose weight and eat healthy diets.
Sir Keith Mills, who founded the Air Miles and Nectar customer loyalty programmes, is to advise the government on how to develop a new way to use incentives and rewards to support people to eat healthy diets and do more physical activity.
Part of his work will include looking at schemes from around the world which have been successful in getting people fit and eating better.
This includes the step challenge in Singapore, a nationwide physical activity programme aimed at encouraging people to do more physical activity with financial incentives.
The government’s £100m package will see more than £70m invested in weight management services – made available through the NHS and councils – enabling up to 700,000 adults to have access to support that can help them to lose weight.
The remaining £30m will fund initiatives to help people maintain a healthy weight, including the Better Health campaign, behavioural weight management services and upskilling health workers in “early years services”.
About 63% of adults in England are overweight or obese and one in three children starting secondary school are considered overweight.
Prime minister Boris Johnson, who has lost weight himself after becoming unwell with COVID, said: “If we all do our bit, we can reduce our own health risks – but also help take pressure off the NHS.
“This funding will give extra support to people across the country who want to lose weight too.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock added: “The urgency of tackling obesity has been brought to the fore by evidence of the link to an increased risk from COVID-19, so it’s vital we take action on obesity to protect the NHS and improve our nation’s health.”
Watch: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?