The results of the Public Health England report on ‘Excess Weight and Covid-19’ were clear; whilst current evidence does not suggest you are more at risk of catching the disease because of being overweight, it does suggest ‘that being severely overweight puts people at greater risk of hospitalisation, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admission and death from COVID-19, with risk growing substantially as body mass index (BMI) increases.’ 
One study found that for people with a BMI of 35 to 40, risk of death from COVID-19 increases by 40% and with a BMI over 40 by 90%, compared to those not living with obesity.  Even Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly convinced that his own need for treatment in intensive care with coronavirus was due to being significantly overweight himself.
The government has seen the pandemic as a ‘wake-up call’ and subsequently released a new strategy for tackling obesity - to seize upon the current awareness raised by COVID-19 and to capitalise on the current momentum towards a healthier existence.
A raft of measures has been revealed to get the nation fit and healthy, to help tackle COVID-19 and to help protect the NHS. Including the following:
A ban on TV and online adverts for food high in fat, sugar and salt before 9pm
The end of deals like ‘buy one get one free’ on unhealthy food high in salt, sugar and fat
Calories are to be displayed on menus to help people make healthier choices when eating out and alcoholic drinks could soon have to list hidden ‘liquid calories’
The plan is being launched alongside the ‘Better Health’ campaign, led by Public Health England, which will call on people to embrace a healthier lifestyle and lose weight if they need to.
The government has come under some criticism however for the scheme being long overdue, for falling short of what is required to really tackle the problem; it has been dubbed a one-size-fits-all approach. They have also been accused of mixed messaging - with the ‘eat out to help out’ subsidy scheme seeming contradictory - effectively making less-than-healthy options - like a cheeseburger and fries - more accessible and attractive than ever.
Neville Koopowitz, CEO of Vitality claims that it’s a mindset shift which is needed to improve the nation’s health. He says at Vitality they have ‘seen success by using the power of incentives,’ and have tested the effectiveness too. In a study published by NPJ Digital Medicine Journal, they found: ‘on average participants taking part in the Vitality Active Rewards Programme completed an extra month’s worth (34 days) of exercise annually when given short term rewards’ 
Vitality have certainly been recognised for the incentive approach to improving health, but they aren’t the only private medical insurance provider to reward their members for getting healthier.
We look at how some of our insurance providers help their members to understand their health better, to track and improve it, and how they reward them for their efforts.
Understanding your health
When you join Vitality Health, you can register with Member Zone to take the online Health Review. Using this information Vitality can set you goals and suggest some of their partners to help you achieve them. You can also find your Vitality Age – their scientific calculation that assesses the impact of your lifestyle on your health. This could be higher or lower than your actual age and is a great way of understanding your health.
Improving your Health
Vitality offer discounts on fitness tracking devices which allows you to track and report your levels of activity. Their Health Insurance policy gives you 50% discount on gym membership with Virgin Active, Nuffield Health and David Lloyd. You can get expert advice and inspiration for healthy eating choices with and discounts on WW digital. Plus a potential 40% cashback on healthy food from Waitrose when you get active. You can also receive 30% off an annual subscription to HeadSpace app to teach you to meditate and live mindfully.
Rewarding your efforts
Members can earn points by hitting their daily steps, working out at a partner gym, joining a parkrun, running, cycling or swimming using their linked activity tracking device. You can also earn points by having a Vitality Healthcheck and more. With these Vitality activity points, members can earn a wide range of rewards from Active Reward partners such as – Apple Watch, Café Nero, Waitrose, Amazon Prime, Champneys Health Spa, Cineworld & Vue and many more.
Understanding your health
When you become an Aviva member you can sign up for MyHealthCounts, their online health questionnaire and programme which helps you understand more about your health and the lifestyle choices that might affect it. They’ll calculate your Q Score, which places you in a virtual queue of a hundred people – the higher your score, the further back you are in the queue and the lower your health risk.
Improving your health
Based on the results of your health questionnaire and Q score MyHealthCounts offers personalised advice, with online tools that could help improve your health. Aviva also offer their advantages programme which gives members 25% off gym memberships with many gyms to choose from.
Rewarding your efforts
Update your progress with MyHealthCounts between month 6 and 9 of your policy year and you could qualify for 15% off your health insurance renewal price.
Axa use their expertise in health and wellbeing to expertly curate and bring you the products that really matter. They inspire you to get healthier and live the best possible version of yourself by providing the products that will help you achieve good health. To make the healthier choices more achievable they provide member discounts on all ActivePlus 2k+ hand picked products.
Bupa have their own Bupa Everyday Rewards which offer 30% off Reebok fitness wear and 25% off the #1 rated home fitness app FiiT. They also offer exclusive discounts on yoga collections with Yogi Bare, Urban 1:1 online wellness and Scentered portable aromatherapy collections. Bupa’s experts continue to produce a huge amount of information on a range of health and wellbeing topics, plus free online health tools, calculators, quizzes, mobile apps and more from Bupa UK.
Tackling obesity will always be a multi-faceted task and getting fitter and healthier is a highly individual process. But health insurance takes a holistic view of your overall health; it’s not only there if you become ill and need treatment – it’s there with you every day to help you to become fitter and healthier with short term rewards to keep you on track.
Obesity is a complex issue but it’s certainly nothing new - prevalence increased steeply between 1993 and 2000, with a slower rate of increase after that. In 2018, the proportion of adults who were obese was 28%.  In 2018/19 there were 11,117 hospital admissions with a primary diagnosis of obesity.  Health and fitness are in the spotlight for everyone because of the pandemic - if you would like to find out more about how health insurance could help you, our specialist advisers are on the end of the phone to talk through the options to suit you.