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Bright spots, physical activity investments that (almost) worked: Carrot Rewards app, driving engagement with pennies a day
  1. Renante Rondina II1,2,
  2. Emma K Pearson1,
  3. Harry Prapavessis1,
  4. Lauren White2,
  5. Sarah Richard2,
  6. Marc S Mitchell1
  1. 1School of Kinesiology, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2Carrot Insights Inc, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Marc S Mitchell, School of Kinesiology, Western University, London, ON N6A 3K7, Canada; marc.mitchell{at}uwo.ca

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Background

Carrot Rewards was a free smartphone app developed by Carrot Insights as part of a public–private partnership with the Public Health Agency of Canada to reward Canadians for engaging in healthy behaviours (ie, walking).1 In 2015, as part of the government of Canada’s Multi-Sectoral Partnership Approach to Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention, $C5 million of seed funding was invested over 4 years to support app development and user acquisition.1 The majority of the investment was used to reward Canadians to download the app. The app was discontinued in June 2019 due, in part, to a lack of long-term funding from regional (eg, provincial/territorial) governments.2

The app was launched in March 2016. In June 2019, it was available in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the Northwest Territories. At that time, over one million Canadians had completed app registration. Carrot Rewards’ users were not exposed to direct advertising; rather, the app employed a ‘sponsored-content’ model whereby strategic partners (eg, provincial/territorial ministries of health) could use the platform to promote healthy living. Carrot Insights profited by placing a mark-up on the rewards that were paid for by strategic partners and subsequently issued to users who completed healthy living activities.

Programme description

The Carrot Rewards cornerstone feature, the Steps walking programme (figure 1), yielded promising results.3 Users who met individualised daily step goals were rewarded with loyalty points worth $C0.04/day, which could be redeemed for consumer goods such as movies or groceries. Though small, rewards were tied to objectively assessed behaviours and were provided instantaneously …

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