The city council of Stoke-on-Trent in the UK is trying out a novel approach to curbing obesity: sending daily motivational text messages to overweight people. The scheme is voluntary and covers 500 people at a total cost of £10,000 (roughly $16,000). In an emailed statement, the council describes it as an early intervention, aiming to prevent the expense and upset of invasive surgical procedures or other more drastic weight-loss methods. At a cost of £20 per person, the plan is also argued to be extremely cost-effective, though that would obviously depend on how productive it proves to be.

"Maybe walk to the shops or use the stairs more often."

Example SMS missives include "eat slightly smaller portions" and "maybe walk to the shops or use the stairs more often." It's difficult to imagine any of Stoke's obese residents lack awareness of how to improve their situation, but perhaps being reminded of it regularly will aid any ongoing efforts to lose weight. Moreover, a weekly questionnaire and the knowledge that they're part of a broader group initiative may also help stimulate their willpower. Once the council has recruited the full 500 participants, the texting trial will last for 10 weeks, after which its usefulness and feasibility will be assessed.