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Reacting to worrying data and forecasts that signal a global rise in obesity, brands and policymakers are getting more inventive in their bid to persuade consumers to adopt more healthy lifestyles and abandon behaviours such as poor nutritional choices and lack of physical activity. They are doing this via everything from free gold for losing weight to a campaign to coax UK construction workers into healthier lifestyles to mall walking initiatives.  In Switzerland, a coalition of paediatricians is reporting the inability of the country’s health services to tackle child obesity to UNICEF as a violation of the rights of children. Meanwhile, a new ad from Nrg Zone Fitness Centres has been commended for its motivational message conveyed through a double image approach. The images show women staring into the mirror as they work out, but their reflections show their future fit and confidant selves.

Period Growth of Obese and Overweight Populations in Selected World Regions: 2007-2012

Source: Euromonitor International from WHO/OECD
Note:  Obese and overweight populations are measured as a percentage of the population aged 15+

Policy Gets Innovative

In July 2013, Dubai municipal officials launched a 30-day challenge for overweight citizens, offering a gram of gold for each kilogramme of weight lost – with the winner receiving more than US$3,200 worth of the precious metal. Gulfnews.com reported too that Dubai Municipality also organised Open Day camps at two parks and a beach with facilities for outdoor exercise and sports activities. Meanwhile, faced with a sharp rise in obesity rates, Qatari authorities are trying to get locals to exercise by walking in air-conditioned shopping malls. “Step IntoHealth”: Walk More, Walk the Mall” has seen four local malls opening their doors for two hours before and after shopping hours.

In the UK at the start of October, getting builders ‘into shape’ was the first priority unveiled by new health minister Jane Ellison. “The image of the bottom baring, overweight builder is being replaced by workers who are hands-on well-oiled machines who operate building sites up and down the country” a press release enthused. Construction firms are being encouraged to organise regular health checks for staff, offer stop-smoking clubs and provide healthier staff canteens.

Getting Through To Mobile Consumers

There is no shortage of dieting, fitness and health-monitoring apps. A new app that stands out is in development at Drexel University, Philadelphia. The TakeControl app is designed to help users reduce binge-eating behaviour.  Harnessing behaviour therapy insights, this app will aim to track users’ individual patterns of eating, emotions, and triggers and alert them at times when they are at high risk of binging, offering them customized interventions. App users can opt to use it as a social tool to connect and gain support from fellow users. “Most users have their smartphone with them upwards of 20 hours a day, so a mobile app can be a very effective way to monitor behaviors that a physician wouldn’t automatically know about,” said Gaurav Naik, a researcher on the project.

Fast Food’s Health Push

McDonald’s is aiming to tempt consumers to eat vegetables and skip the fries in a bid to compete with healthier competitors such as Chipotle.  The fast food chain’s latest move, a Clinton Global Initiative commitment, will offer customers the choice of fruit or vegetables with meals instead of fries in its 20 largest markets.

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