OBESE residents in Basildon are to be paid to lose weight in the first Pound-for-Pound scheme in the UK.
Under the slogan, “We are looking for big losers”, the local health authority is inviting 100 volunteers to take part in a pilot scheme which will see them paid £1 in Asda shopping vouchers for every pound they lose in weight.
The project is the first of its kind in the country and follows a similar initiative in America.
If successful it could be rolled out across the UK.
Sarah Stanton, 36, a care worker, of Sunnedon, Vange, is one of 16 who have already signed up for the scheme.
The married mum-of-four, who weighs 14stone 7lbs, says she hopes the incentive will help her to shed about two-and-a-half stone.
She said: “I saw the poster and just thought, ‘Why not?’ “I have gone on a load of diets before and they have not worked, so I thought I’d give it a go.
“I’m not excessively overweight, but I am overweight and I just want to get fit and healthy.”
The scheme has been commissioned by NHS South West Essex in response to a growing obesity problem among adults.
Recent health studies have found a quarter of the district’s adult population is obese and is ranked “significantly worse” than the national average.
Health profiles released on Tuesday also reveal only one in ten adults is getting enough exercise, and over three quarters don’t have a healthy diet. The scheme will start in September and be run by Basildon Council’s cultural services department.
It will see volunteers given advice on how to lose weight, such as walking to the local shops, and then told to return three months later for a weigh-in.
As well as the shopping vouchers, those taking part will be offered the chance to feature in a glitzy photo shoot.
Organisers say this represents better value for the NHS, rather than paying about £75 a month for gym memberships which often go unused.
To be eligible to take part, volunteers must submit their height and weight statistics and be found to have a worrying Body Mass Index rating.
The Pound-for-Pound programme is part of the Get Out There scheme, which aims to introduce more than 50 activities across the district to encourage healthy eating and exercise.