Promoting Healthier Manchester
An innovative loyalty scheme that will see people in Manchester offered incentives to live more healthily has secured multi-million pound backing from the Government.
The 'points4life' scheme, developed by NHS Manchester and Manchester City Council, will receive 4.6 million pound to help local people enjoy healthier lives.
The announcement follows confirmation by Secretary of State Alan Johnson that Manchester has been awarded 'Healthy Town' status as part of the Government's programme to tackle growing rates of obesity caused by diet and inactivity.
points4life is based on the approaches used by many supermarkets, petrol stations and other businesses to reward customers' loyalty – but instead encourages healthy choices and offers rewards that promote better health.
Laura Roberts, Chief Executive of NHS Manchester, said: "Unfortunately people in Manchester have among the poorest health in the country.
"There are lots of reasons but the simple everyday decisions we all make about food and exercise contribute hugely to our biggest health problems, including heart disease and cancer.
"Points4life is based on tried and tested techniques from some of the world's most successful companies, the difference being that we're not looking for customers to be loyal to a particular store, but to help people make healthier choices."
The scheme, which will be launched in the second half of next year, will enable residents and visitors to the city to pick up a points4life card and earn points for buying from chosen retailers, taking exercise and other health-related activities.
Those who use the card, which will be free, will be able to pick up points for a range of products and services including council run leisure services and, for example, buying fruit and vegetables from many local stores and market traders. Some of the city's major retailers could also offer points4life.
The points will be redeemable against healthy products and services; anything from buying sports equipment to free places on summer play schemes for children or discounts off healthy food.
A hi-tech approach to the initiative will include installation of equipment at venues such as local parks that allow people to earn points as they exercise – measuring how far they have walked or run.
Cllr Basil Curley, Executive Member for Health and Social Care, said: "Manchester City Council is delighted to be working in partnership with NHS Manchester to deliver this innovative project, which as far as we know is the first of its kind.
"Manchester has some of the poorest health in the country, and while the statistics have been improving significantly over recent years, we've still got a long way to go if we're going to meet our aspiration of everyone in the city leading longer, healthier and happier lives.
"Points4Life is an exciting opportunity to encourage people to be more physically active and to eat a better diet, which is a crucial part of tackling the problems of obesity and heart disease in the city, and Council services will play a significant part in this over the coming years."
Dr Sally Bradley, Director of Public Health at NHS Manchester, said: "Obesity already has a major impact on our day to day health and overall life expectancy and costs the NHS in Manchester more than pound166 million a year, so it's vital we address this now for the benefit of current and future generations.
"Eating healthily and exercising are often seen as being tougher choices than the less healthy alternatives. Points4life will play a big part in changing that perception and use proven methods to really improve the lives of those who choose to use the card."
Retailers and other companies will be encouraged to take part in the programme and contribute to the running costs. The longer term vision is that the scheme will be self-funding.
Dr Ruth Hussey North West Regional Director for Public Health said: "We are extremely pleased that Manchester's bid has been successful.
"There's some fantastic and effective work which is already being carried out to tackle the city's health inequalities and it's great to get this high level of recognition.
"Innovative schemes such as points4life aim to work with partners and help as many people as possible to attain their healthy weight, an important issue to that will go a long way to maintaining and improving health. We hope that the learning from being a Healthy Town can be replicated across the North West and beyond."
The development of the scheme has included researching the concept with local people, which showed strong support and willingness to take part and support for the City Council and NHS Manchester running such a programme.