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Chicago Employees to Get Cash to Lose Weight
October 8, 2012

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Chicago is targeting obesity with cash incentives to city government employees.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the plan, saying that the city's employees would compete against workers in San Antonio for an overall $5 million grant from the American Beverage Association. Specifics have yet to be worked out, but one incentive is a $1,000 payment to workers who meet certain health care goals.

The competition will sit alongside Chicago's Wellness Program, which levies an additional $50 a month in health insurance on all city government employees who do not sign up.

Emanuel emphasized personal responsibility, saying that he hoped the plan would motivate employees to meet their own health care goals, such as quitting smoking or losing weight. Emanuel said he thought such an approach would be more effective than putting a tax on sugary drinks, as other institutions and cities (most notablyNew York) have done. A Chicago alderman earlier this year introduced a plan to put a tax of up to 35 cents on sugary drinks.

The competition is sponsored by the makers of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper. Representatives of those companies appeared with Emanuel at the news conference announcing the program.

Also as part of the program, soda machines in Chicago and San Antonio city government buildings will list the number of calories for each beverage and sport signs reminding consumers to count calories. The move is a trial for an anticipated nationwide rollout in 2013.

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