Lose pounds and gain grams of gold in Dubai.
If you want people to slim down, why not reward them with gold? That's the tack being taken in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Alarmed at ballooning waistlines in a region where fast food is common and comfortable outdoor exercise is not, the local government is offering to give citizens a gram of gold for each kilogram lost by Aug. 16, according to news reports.
That's about $41 for a little over two pounds of pudge, based on today's market rate.
Participants have to lose at least two kilos to get the golden payout. They have to show up by Friday to weigh in, according to the Associated Press. And health care providers are expected to be on hand to recommend healthful weight-loss methods.
In the United States, rewards for people who lose weight, stop smoking and otherwise shape up are becoming part of workplace wellness programs, though they have yet to include precious metals in the payoff, as far as we know.
A 2011 survey of large U.S. employers found that half were using incentives as part of wellness programs, or planned to do so. They typically reduce the cost of health insurance premiums for employees who participate.
But those kind of systems can lead to discrimination against people who are in poor health through no fault of their own, patient advocates say.
Plus, incentives don't always work. Studies in which people were paid to stop smoking or lose weight have been a mixed bag. Still, some employers say they've seen sustained benefits in lower health care costs.
Washington's King County saved $6 million in health care costs between 2007 and 2011, in part by offering incentives for county employees to lose weight, according to NPR's Yuki Noguchi.
But for some people, the stick works better than the carrot. Programs like StickK let people pledge to pay money to a cause they loathe if they fail to meet a weight-loss goal.