Evaluating the carrot rewards app, a population-level incentive-based intervention promoting step counts across two canadian provinces: Quasi-experimental study

Marc Mitchell, Lauren White, Erica Lau, Tricia Leahey, Marc Adams, Guy Faulkner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: The Carrot Rewards app was developed as part of an innovative public-private partnership to reward Canadians with loyalty points, exchangeable for retail goods, travel rewards, and groceries for engaging in healthy behaviors such as walking.Objective: This study examined whether a multicomponent intervention including goal setting, graded tasks, biofeedback, and very small incentives tied to daily step goal achievement (assessed by built-in smartphone accelerometers) could increase physical activity in two Canadian provinces, British Columbia (BC) and Newfoundland and Labrador (NL).Methods: This 12-week, quasi-experimental (single group pre-post) study included 78,882 participants; 44.39% (35,014/78,882) enrolled in the Carrot Rewards “Steps” walking program during the recruitment period (June 13–July 10, 2016). During the 2-week baseline (or “run-in”) period, we calculated participants’ mean steps per day. Thereafter, participants earned incentives in the form of loyalty points (worth Can $0.04) every day they reached their personalized daily step goal (ie, baseline mean+1000 steps=first daily step goal level). Participants earned additional points (Can $0.40) for meeting their step goal 10+ nonconsecutive times in a 14-day period (called a “Step Up Challenge”). Participants could earn up to Can $5.00 during the 12-week evaluation period. Upon meeting the 10-day contingency, participants could increase their daily goal by 500 steps, aiming to gradually increase the daily step number by 3000. Only participants with ≥5 valid days (days with step counts: 1000-40,000) during the baseline period were included in the analysis (n=32,229).The primary study outcome was mean steps per day (by week), analyzed using linear mixed-effects models.Results: The mean age of 32,229 participants with valid baseline data was 33.7 (SD 11.6) years; 66.11% (21,306/32,229) were female. The mean daily step count at baseline was 6511.22. Over half of users (16,336/32,229, 50.69%) were categorized as “physically inactive,” accumulating <5000 daily steps at baseline. Results from mixed-effects models revealed statistically significant increases in mean daily step counts when comparing baseline with each study week (P<.001). Compared with baseline, participants walked 115.70 more steps (95% CI 74.59 to 156.81; P<.001) at study week 12. BC and NL users classified as “high engagers” (app engagement above sample median; 15,511/32,229, 48.13%) walked 738.70 (95% CI 673.81 to 803.54; P<.001) and 346.00 (95% CI 239.26 to 452.74; P<.001) more steps, respectively. Physically inactive, high engagers (7022/32,229, 21.08%) averaged an increase of 1224.66 steps per day (95% CI 1160.69 to 1288.63; P<.001). Effect sizes were modest.Conclusions: Providing very small but immediate rewards for personalized daily step goal achievement as part of a multicomponent intervention increased daily step counts on a population scale, especially for physically inactive individuals and individuals who engaged more with the walking program. Positive effects in both BC and NL provide evidence of replicability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere178
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Volume6
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2018

Keywords

  • Behavioral economics
  • Financial health incentives
  • Mobile phone
  • Physical activity
  • Public health
  • mHealth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics

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