Hounslow is the latest council to incentivise better health with BetterPoints
It is well-known, nowadays, that physical inactivity is a killer. It’s responsible for one in six deaths in the UK (equal to smoking) and is estimated to cost us £7.4 billion annually [Public Health England, 2019]. It can cause serious health problems such as obesity, chronic heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes.
Poor diet is also a major risk factor for premature death [NHS, 2021]. Almost two-thirds of adults in England are overweight or obese, while obesity-related illnesses cost the NHS £6 billion a year [DHSC, 2021].
But getting people to be more active and eat more healthily means changing habits that are often deeply ingrained. Such new behaviours don’t form overnight: they require the preferred activity to be more compelling than the individual’s status quo, and for long enough that the status quo changes permanently.
At BetterPoints, we combine regular, achievable goals with encouragement to pursue them and rewards for achieving them, so that, over time, healthy new behaviours are adopted and become easier to sustain.
The London Borough of Hounslow is the latest local authority to use our acclaimed behaviour change platform specifically for public health goals. One You Hounslow, which launched last month, rewards people for being physically active, eating healthily and stopping smoking.
Participants are baselined and benchmarked with polls and surveys and rewarded for undertaking a range of healthy activities. They are encouraged to keep going through gamification, challenges and in-app messages.
Physical activity is recorded automatically by the BetterPoints app on their mobile devices, while QR codes enable participants to check-in at specific activities, such as cooking classes and smoking cessation sessions. Anonymised data is fed back to the Council for analysis and modelling.
The personalised cycle of gamification, tracking, rewards and messaging will repeat continuously throughout the life of the programme. It’s an approach that we’ve proven over the years.
For example, in 2015–2017, we worked with Birmingham City Council’s Wellbeing and Strategic insight teams to track unstructured everyday activity in the city’s parks, and to demonstrate their value to public health.
81% of sampled participants moved from Inactive to Active. 77% of participants were from the five most deprived health deciles and 80% were from the five most deprived IMD bands.
In 2017, we delivered Salford Active Walk 150 for Salford Clinical Commissioning Group. The year-long programme focussed on inactive people over the age of 14 in deprived areas. 77% of participants were from localities that fall into the bottom 10% of Lower Layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs).
Of those who were categorised as Inactive when they joined the programme, 44% increased their weekly average minutes of walking and 15% moved to the Active category. Of those who were categorised Insufficiently Active when they joined, 32% increased their weekly average minutes of walking and 18% moved to Active.
In 2018, for Public Health Hampshire, we targeted a 12-week programme at 40–65 year-olds in Gosport and Havant.
72% achieved 150 minutes physical activity for at least eight weeks. 51% maintained recommended levels of activity – 150 minutes a week – for the whole 12 weeks.
At the end, 97% said they intended to stay active, even without the incentives and rewards.
In 2018, we began work for Ebbsfleet Development Corporation on Get Active Ebbsfleet, a complex behaviour change intervention that encourages local people to be more active, visit local parks and connect with others.
Just three weeks into the 12-month pilot, 76% of people classed as Inactive had already progressed into the Insufficiently active or Active categories. 50% of those in the Insufficiently active category progressed to Active.
53% of participants reported being more active after 12 weeks and 63% reported being more active by the end of the 12-month programme.
App-tracked data for the first six months of year three show that 53% of people classed as ‘physically inactive’ prior to joining the campaign are now undertaking NHS-recommended levels of activity for three weeks or more.
Get Active Ebbsfleet is now in its fourth year.
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