As a child I could only dream of free gold. But I do remember being incentivised by my parents to do well in my exams with promises of modest cash rewards for good results. I can’t think I received more than £50 in total, but my exam results were pretty good!
Nowadays, I face the constant psychological battle with my own kids. Generally I know that the promise of sweets should grant me leverage with my children’s behaviour and focus on school work.
But in Dubai, where everything is taken to the next level, children as young as 2 years old are being offered pure gold to lose weight!
The Emirate’s growing obesity problem is illustrated by their rise to the 6th heaviest country in the world. They recognise the issue is detrimental to health and that it costs money to treat the associated illnesses. Just as importantly they also understand that the best way to reduce the weight of families is to get the parents involved. If it was up to the kids themselves, I’m sure they may have tried dangling the carrot of free tickets to Atlantis waterpark instead! While UK families would worry about where to keep coins and bars safe from gold thieves, residents of Dubai have owned and stored gold for centuries.
Your child is gold
Families can register for the free gold program, named “Your child is gold”, which offers 1 gram of free gold for every kilogram of weight lost. The Emirate is offering a special incentive of two grams per kilo if the participating family has children between the ages of 2 and 14. Clearly Dubai has the vision that catching eating habits young will set a positive precedent for the future.
Participants must register at one of several weigh-in sites so that health experts can measure their progress by the final weigh in on 15 Sep. After the first day of the scheme’s launch, 9,200 had enrolled, 15% as families. This clearly satisfies the intention of the program to address child obesity as authorities admit that many schools have cut exercise classes. This isn’t the first time Dubai has offered gold for weight loss. Last year they paid a total of £762,340 in gold, with three times the number of entrants this year.
Several experts in Dubai have criticised the scheme, citing the danger that sudden weight loss, especially in children, can bring. A kilo loss for an adult is modest but for a 5 year old child, it can be proportionally significant and impact their health. In fact, to qualify for the gold, children must lose 2 kilos in one month, surely promoting short term weight loss rather than a move to a healthier lifestyle.
I can only imagine the political hot potato it would be in the UK. There would be outcry from health authorities and exploitation from hard up families. Considering the prospects for gold in 2014 British families would be queuing round the corner to sign up, perhaps even gorging on cakes beforehand to earn that bit extra! Still, it’s fascinating that Dubai’s ruling body can recognise their people’s affinity to gold to realise the leverage that can bring.