Blog: Dean BestGovernment cash just the carrot for pregnant mums

Dean Best | 10 September 2007

The phrase “nanny state” rankles with me. Governments are too often – and too easily – criticized for not doing enough to tackle a range of social ills. In the UK, for instance, the Government is constantly targeted for not being proactive enough in dealing with issues like obesity and binge drinking.

Don’t get me wrong, governments have a central and vital role in tackling these ticking social timebombs. Yet when a perfectly reasonable idea is touted to tackle these issues head on, we hear the familiar cry of a “nanny state”, cries that the Government should not “interfere” with how we run our lives. Well, we can’t have it both ways. And the UK government’s idea of giving pregnant women cash to spend on fresh fruit and veg is an eminently sensible way of the state intervening to improve the population’s health.

The measure, to be introduced in 2009, will see all expectant mothers given a one-off payment of around GBP120 (US$244) to spend on healthy food when they are seven months pregnant. Sure, some could argue that perhaps seven months is a bit late when trying to boost the nutrition a foetus gets in the womb. And, of course, while there is no compulsion to spend the cash on mangoes, melons or mushrooms, women may spend the money on alcohol and cigarettes instead.

In some quarters, the measure has been derided as a misguided policy from the “nanny state”. However, combined with intensifying health campaigns on the importance of a balanced diet – as well as the dangers of drinking and smoking during pregnancy – the cash may just be the carrot many mothers need to give their kids’ a healthier start in life.


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