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Towns to battle obesity through health programmes

10 November 2008

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A series of health initiatives are to be tried out in nine English towns to combat a predicted epidemic of obesity, the government has said.

Among the schemes in the £30m Healthy Towns programme is a loyalty card allowing individuals to earn points by buying healthy food and taking part in exercise which can be redeemed for free sportswear or games equipment, health secretary Alan Johnson announced.

Other ideas include redesigning town centres to encourage walking and cycling, a grow-your-own fruit and vegetable scheme for social-housing tenants, urban gardens in areas hit by last year’s floods and a “cycle-recycle” project to help people learn to ride and look after their bikes.

Action will be taken to make parks more attractive places to visit, and safe “active travel corridors” will be created to link people’s homes with “health hubs”.

The government-commissioned Foresight report, published last year, warned that unless action is taken, nine out of 10 British adults and two thirds of children will be overweight or obese by the year 2050.

This would impose an additional £50bn burden on the NHS and the economy, lead to huge increases in conditions like cancer, heart disease and diabetes and knock nine years off the average Briton’s life expectancy, Mr Johnson warned.

Copyright © Press Association 2008

Department of Health