Article from the Observer via the Guardian website:
Pregnant women to get cash for good diet
Â· Â£120 grant to buy fruit and vegetables
Â· Brown rejects ‘nanny state’ criticism
Jo Revill, Whitehall editor
Sunday September 9, 2007
All expectant mothers are to be given a one-off payment of around Â£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.