Famous for its abundance of skyscrapers, megamalls and lavish real estate, the desert metropolis of Dubai is growing in another, less-appealing way: Over half its residents are overweight. In an effort to help people shed the flab, local government officials announced a 30-day challenge in which it promises to pay participants a gram of gold for every kilogram of weight lost.
That’s an estimated $41 for every two pounds or so, based on the going rate for gold. The deadline to sign up is this Friday, July 19, the Associated Press reports, and health care providers will be on hand to suggest healthy living recommendations for the month-long challenge. Dubai official Hussain Lootah said there’s no limit on the golden payout, but participants must lose at least two kilograms by August 16.
According to a study conducted by Phillips Healthcare last year, more than half of Emirati nationals living in Dubai are overweight, the Pulitzer Center reports. In fact, regional obesity rates rival that of the United States. In Saudi Arabia, a recent survey found 66 percent of men and 71 percent of women are overweight or obese, while in Kuwait 74 percent of men and 77 percent of women are also overweight or obese. In Abu Dhabi alone, 30% of schoolchildren are overweight or obese.
The fast food industry thrives in the United Arab Emirates region, where American chains like McDonald’s, Subway and KFC as well as a variety of local quick-service restaurants are popular. The Dubai Health Authority is working to educate its citizens on making healthier choices, with child-focused initiatives on nutrition education.
But will paying for pounds work? As NPR points out, incentive programs are common in the U.S. workplace, and often provide mixed results. Gold, however, has never been part of the equation.