Stoke-on-Trent council to send obese residents ‘motivational’ weight loss texts

Council says project will cost £10k but ‘save money and suffering’ in the long run

Obese people in Stoke-on-Trent are set to receive “motivational” texts from their local council giving them advice on how to lose weight.

The 10-week project will cost £10,000, and will see 500 willing volunteers be told things like: “Use the stairs more,” and: “Eat fruit and veg”.

The council said the scheme would “save both money and suffering” by intervening ahead of the need for expensive medical treatment, but it was met with scepticism from residents and derision online.

Stoke’s cabinet member for health Adrian Knapper told BBC News: “On average it costs the same amount [£10,000] to perform just one intervention operation to help people manage their weight.

“Our programme means people who already want to lose weight and have signed up with us to get support will receive a cheap and effective nudge to help keep them motivated.”

But the opposition leader, Conservative councillor Abi Brown, said: “I think we could get more for £10,000.”

Many Twitter users suggested the scheme could cause more harm than good, with UK health charity campaigner Vanessa Furey describing the messages as “bullying by text”. Michelle Pentecost, a medical PhD student, tweeted: “'Motivational' texts for obese? I think more likely to have negative psychological consequences.”

Highlighting the size of the budget for the project, which the council said would include the cost of initial setup as well as sending the messages, one user tweeted: “Surely this isn't a good use of £10,000?”

A council spokesperson told the BBC: “This is all about getting people on board and taking action before they need medical support, which is so expensive and personally upsetting.

“This saves both money and suffering.”

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