The government is launching a pilot of an app which will see users wear wrist-worn devices to generate personalised health recommendations and award points to motivate healthier habits.
Launching in January 2022, the app has been designed to encourage people to make positive changes to their lifestyle; such as eating more fruit and vegetables or increasing their step count.
The contract to develop a new app was awarded to HeadUp Systems and the Department of Health and Social Care is investing £3million in funding to fund the reward system. Users will be awarded points for healthy behaviours which can be exchanged for rewards such as gym passes, clothes or food vouchers, or cinema or theme park tickets.
Sajid Javid, health and social care secretary, said: “I want to ensure we’re doing as much as we can to tackle health disparities across the country, and this new pilot will pave the way for developing innovate ways to improve the lives of individuals, and also help to reduce strain on the NHS.
“The Office of Health Improvement and Disparities is driving forward out levelling up agenda for health and ensuring prevention is a vital part of everything we do. This pilot is an excellent opportunity to find out how best to inspire people to make small changes to their daily lives that will have a lasting positive impact on their health.”
The app forms part of the Health Incentives Scheme which is a £100million package of government funding to help support people living with obesity to lead healthier lives. It’s part of the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) drive to use digital technology to curb health conditions before their develop.
There’s strong evidence to support the idea of financial incentives to promote healthy habits, with both Canada and Singapore successfully launching apps with positive results. The government intends to study these international examples to determine what makes them successful and inform best practice in England.
Strategy director at HeadUp, David Parfitt, added: “We’re thrilled to be working with OHID to design and deliver a truly innovative initiative to support the future of population health in England.
“As an evidence-based, data science company focused on people’s health around the world, we are immensely proud to be working with the government and key stakeholders, people in the community, and with the Behavioural Insights Team as our design and evaluation partner, to play a part in piloting an exciting new approach to the urgent and important challenge of helping people engage with their health and improve their health behaviours.”
The idea of the NHS providing digital technologies such as FitBits is one that has previously been mooted by a think tank. In May 2019, The Social Market Foundation report stated that access to improved health outcomes shouldn’t be dictated by a person’s ability to pay for innovative technology, suggesting the NHS should fund them for those who can’t afford them.
The new app will ensure that all personal information is safe and secure, with user privacy at its core. Starting from January 2022, the app pilot will run for six months in an area of England still to be announced.