‘Carrot Rewards’ to encourage healthy BC lifestyles
By Eric Wilkins, Editor-in-Chief
British Columbians struggling to find the motivation to make healthy choices may finally have that extra push. A jointly funded federal-provincial program is seeking to entice users via a method more commonly employed by companies such as Canadian Tire and Shoppers Drug Mart: loyalty points.
“Carrot Rewards” is an app currently in development that will be released sometime this fall. The federal government has sunk $5 million into the program, while BC has put in an additional $2.5 million. The Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Diabetes Association, YMCA Canada, and the for-profit partner—Social Change Rewards—are also involved.
While it still has not quite been decided how users will earn points, early indicators have suggested completing health quizzes and trying new recipes, along with typical app incentives such as signing up and getting friends to do likewise. The rewards themselves are also still in the works.
“This is a little bit more in terms of nudging people forward by giving them a reward for doing the right thing,” said Health Minister Terry Lake.
But do Canadians really care about such programs?
A survey released by Colloquy in 2013 reported that 90 per cent of Canadians belonged to a loyalty program. Adding to matters, there were over 120 million memberships in Canada—over three times the population—which extrapolates to just over eight memberships per household.
He also noted that he had “some degree of skepticism,” but stated, “I thought we should invest in it because if we didn’t, it would be a missed opportunity to do something that we really haven’t done on a broad scale before.”
Lake is not the only one who has some doubts about the program though. Professor Trevor Hancock of the University of Victoria has also seen some issues. “I would say that before you start this kind of program you should look carefully at all the ways in which public policy and also private-sector policy makes unhealthy choices easy, and eliminate them.
“As a society we need to be looking at what it is we are doing that shapes peoples’ choices through environmental and social and economic and commercial factors that lead them to make unhealthy choices in the first place.”
The data collection on users is also a concern, though Lake has said that he has “been assured the data will not be used inappropriately.”
Of course that isn’t to say that the data won’t be useful, as Dr. Kendall Ho, head of UBC’s eHealth Strategy Office, noted, “I would be disappointed if there is no evaluation or research component to it.
“It will be really interesting over time to see how many people benefit from this program not only in behavioural change, but also improvements in health outcomes.”
With fall almost upon us, and initial usage capped at two million, health- and free-stuff-crazed British Columbians should keep an eye out for Carrot’s rollout.