For some English welfare recipients, future benefits payments may be linked to exercise adherence, if recommendations from the Westminster Council in London are adopted.

As responsibility for public health has shifted from the National Health Service to local government, officials have been reviewing ways to improve citizens’ health. To address these issues, the council put together a report, A Dose of Localism: The Role of Councils in Public Health, which focuses on several recommendations that emphasize preventive measures.

One recommendation is to allow general practitioners (primary-care physicians) to prescribe physical activities at local facilities, including council swimming pools, gyms, yoga studios and walking clubs. “Local authorities should consider making provision for prescription of leisure activities in their service level agreements with providers,” explains the report.

The report also suggests a plan that allows councils to deliver or rescind financial incentives based on exercise participation. “Where an exercise package is prescribed to a resident [by a physician], housing and council tax benefit payments could be varied to reward or incentivize residents.” To monitor exercise levels, individuals would be given an access card that captured data.

“Public health presents a compelling challenge for local government,” the report concludes. “Issues such as obesity and diabetes exert an enormous toll in both financial and human terms. The evidence presented in this report suggests that meeting these challenges will require local authorities to pioneer a bottom-up approach to public health improvement that is characterized by early intervention and co-production.”

Do you think local governments should be involved in citizens’ exercise habits? Is it a good idea to offer financial incentives for exercising? Send your thoughts to [email protected]

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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