UK Government is planning to recruit "snoops" to nag Brits into living healthier lives by asking their family friends and colleagues to not to smoke, eat or drink too much. The Government hopes that the volunteers will help to get across its messages on healthy living in a new and influential way, the Telegraph reports.
Speaking at the Royal Society of Arts yesterday, Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, said mentors could be "amazingly successful" and that he hoped that they could revolutionize the nation's health.
The Public health "mentors" are not paid but they will be enlisted by the NHS to offer 'on the spot' advice in their local neighborhood.
However, the critics warned that the public was increasingly being "nannied" over their health. The latest example of this was a nursery in Essex where toddlers were told to badger their parents to stop smoking.
Martin Dockerell, from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the anti-smoking charity, said: "If you get the mentoring scheme right and if you manage to turn things around so it seems that healthy behaviour is not abnormal then that can be very powerful. If, however, you are trying to be the only mum on the estate whose kids don't go to McDonalds, or the only 19-year-old who doesn't drink in the park, then that is not going to work."
While some PCTs already use paid "health trainers" to help deliver its public health message, some are recruiting the volunteers and many more are expected to be enlisted.
Volunteers attend training sessions where they are taught how to offer appropriate advice on health issues including how to become more active, have a better diet, stop smoking and reduce stress.
Volunteer Johnson said: "To improve people's health "we must also look at mentoring schemes ... where primary care trusts recruit people from disadvantaged communities to give health advice to local people setting goals on reducing smoking and increasing physical activity. These (schemes) are something that is hopefully going to revolutionise how we get this message across. he most effective message is in the bars and clubs and where people speak to each other."