Stoke & Staffordshire

Stoke-on-Trent obese sent 'motivational' weight loss texts

Screen shot of messages
Image caption The 10-week project will cost £10,000 and will see texts sent to 500 people who sign up

Obese people in Stoke-on-Trent will be sent text messages to encourage them to lose weight, the city council has said.

About 70,000 adults in the city are classed as obese according to the council, with the local NHS spending £50m a year on weight-related illness.

"Motivational" texts include: "Use the stairs more", "Eat fruit and veg" and "Keep a check on snacks and drinks".

The 10-week project will cost £10,000 and will be available to 500 people who sign up with the council.

Cabinet member for health Adrian Knapper said: "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."

'Used more fruitfully'

But the leader of the opposition, Conservative councillor Abi Brown, said although she appreciated the sentiment behind the idea, she thought the money could be better spent elsewhere.

"I think we could get more for £10,000," she said.

"If the money went to community groups it could be used to support people losing weight but also for other projects.

"The money could just be used more fruitfully."

Nathan Troni, 55, from the Cheadle area of the city, said he had a body mass index (BMI) of 32, and would consider signing up for the scheme.

"It would be a reminder, I suppose, just to keep on track," he said.

"I don't know whether it would feel like nagging, though.

"I've already got my wife to do that."

'Look in the mirror'

Hope Chang, from Chell Heath in the city, said: "To be honest, I can't see it will make a difference.

"You need to have willpower, and if you don't have it, an automated text message won't help.

"If I needed a reminder when I was losing weight, I would look in the mirror," Mrs Chang added.

But fellow of Staffordshire University's health faculty Phil O'Connell said the project was "pioneering".

"This is a really cost-effective use of funds, helping people before they reach the stage of needing massively expensive treatment for a range of obesity-related problems including diabetes, cancer, heart disease and disability," he said.

"This is what public health action should be all about."

The budget of £10,000 includes the setting up of the project as well as the cost of text messaging.

A council spokeswoman said: "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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