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UK To Give Preg Women $243 For Veggies

From an approving (and appropriately named) Guardian:

Pregnant women to get cash for good diet

Jo Revill, Whitehall editor
Sunday September 9, 2007

All expectant mothers are to be given a one-off payment of around £120 that they will be encouraged to spend on fresh fruit and vegetables as a way of protecting their children from diseases and incurable conditions later in life.

The plan for a ‘health in pregnancy’ grant will be outlined by Health Secretary Alan Johnson this week in his first major speech outlining how the government plans to tackle the yawning health divide between the richest and poorest in England and Wales.

The payment – the first by a government that is allied to a specific health target – would be given to women when they are seven months pregnant. It would be linked to them receiving professional health advice on how to maintain a proper balanced diet, and give up drinking and smoking. The move comes as the government’s record on improving public health will come under fresh scrutiny this week when Sir Derek Wanless, a former government adviser on the NHS, publishes a major report that will criticise lack of progress on tackling increasingly unhealthy lifestyles which have led to Britain’s obesity epidemic. The report is expected to highlight poor eating habits, people’s increasingly sedentary routines and the growing number of overweight people as areas where more determined action needs to be taken.

The pregnancy measure, to be introduced in 2009, is likely to prove highly controversial as women will be free to spend the money on drink or cigarettes. Sources told The Observer that the government accepts that some of the 630,000 women who become pregnant each year may choose not to spend the money on healthy food. There is also little published research to show that a financial incentive, combined with nutritional advice, is sufficient to persuade mothers from the most deprived areas to change their lifestyle.

It was decided it would be too complex, and possibly unfair, to means-test the payment and give it only to the poorest women. It is likely to be given as an extra child benefit, regardless of income

Brushing aside concerns about being seen as a ‘nanny state’, Gordon Brown has sanctioned his Cabinet to take a more interventionist approach when it comes to narrowing the life chances between rich and poor. This will include sending more nurses into deprived communities to support women who need the most NHS help but are most likely not to ask for it. A scheme pioneered in America is being trialled [sic] in Somerset under which nurses regularly help mothers who are struggling to cope…

One big health divide opening up is over tobacco, as women from deprived communities are four times more likely to smoke during pregnancy. Johnson will publish a health inequality strategy next summer which will launch a radical programme to try to lower the divide.

£120 is $243.42 at the current rate of exchange. Which is probably about the price of a cartoon (or two) of cigarettes.

But surely this financial incentive will be enough to stop these poor people from smoking, drinking, and lying around and getting fat.

The pregnancy measure, to be introduced in 2009, is likely to prove highly controversial as women will be free to spend the money on drink or cigarettes.

Yes, that is what is controversial about this proposal. Of course it is.

For how could anyone accuse this of being another step towards a nanny state?

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, September 9th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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