Ont. gives wellness app $1.5M funding boost

TORONTO — Ontario has joined three other Canadian governments in funding a smartphone app that gives users points for popular consumer reward programs in exchange for engaging with government-approved messages about wellness.

The province announced Thursday it is spending $1.5 million on the Carrot Rewards smartphone app, which tracks users’ steps and offers quizzes and tips on topics including healthy living, personal finances and the environment.

When users reach their step goal or complete a quiz on home budgeting, for example, they’ll receive points in their account for the reward program of their choice: Aeroplan, Petro-Points, More Rewards, or Cineplex’s Scene.

Toronto-based company Carrot Insights developed the app in 2015 with funding from the federal government and British Columbia, and Newfoundland and Labrador signed on last year.

Carrot Rewards became available to Ontarians in February and the company says it has about 200,000 active users in the province today.

With the promise of bonus points and free healthy snacks, Carrot Rewards lured users out to Thursday’s announcement in Toronto — and, according to the company, more than 1,000 people showed up to take part.

Andreas Souvaliotis, CEO of Carrot Insights, said the app launched with a focus on health but the company and its partner governments quickly realized it was effective at modifying behaviour in other areas as well, and expanded to a more general focus on wellness that includes personal finance and the environment.

He said a typical example of government messaging is a campaign by Natural Resources Canada that gave people information on saving energy at home and buying energy efficient appliances.

“Anything that requires positive public engagement, we can now run it through a much more modern platform like this, as opposed to the old-fashioned stuff, which was advertising,” he said.

The information distributed through the app originates with the governments, but charities that work with the company — the Heart and Stroke Foundation, YMCA and Diabetes Canada — help make the content more authentic, Souvaliotis said.

“If for some reason the government is at risk of making a mistake, doing something that might frustrate you as a citizen or feel to you a little Big Brotherish, we have the charities that can help us push back and authenticize the content a little more,” he said.

Eleanor McMahon, Ontario’s minister of sport, said her government intends to use Carrot Rewards to help people make good choices that lead to healthier lives.

The goal is to give people an incentive to act and think differently, McMahon said. “It behooves us to think about how we can motivate people, because we need to. We need to live differently.”

She likens Carrot Rewards to a modern-day ParticipACTION — the federally funded series of public service announcements and Body Break commercials Canadians have seen off and on since the 1970s.

The Ontario government is still in the process of creating messaging with Carrot and McMahon said it’s likely to include cycling promotion.

Just Posted

Relatives of murdered family critical of killers’ sentences

Open letter to sentencing judge criticizes ruling allowing killers to apply for parole in 25 years

City rolling out Green Carts

Green Carts used for organics, such as yard waste, food scraps and pet waste

New teaching standards applauded

New code of standards affecting teachers, principals and superintendents to kick in Sept. 1, 2019

UPDATED: Agriculture minister speaks to cattle producers

2018 Alberta Beef Industry Conference underway in Red Deer

Updated: Red Deer gets WHL Bantam Draft and Awards Banquet

WHL will holds its draft and awards ceremony in Red Deer for next three years

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Twenty years later, figure skating’s most famous backflip remains amazing (and illegal)

Figure skating involves spins, jumps, twizzles and a whole host of other… Continue reading

You don’t need to chop like a TV chef to get the job done

Standing in line at the emergency room, makeshift bandage around my finger,… Continue reading

Seychelles swaps debt for groundbreaking marine protection

CURIEUSE ISLAND, Seychelles — With deep blue waters, white sand beaches and… Continue reading

Trump endorses raising minimum age to 21 for more weapons

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump endorsed stricter gun-control measures Thursday, including raising… Continue reading

Red Deer blood clinic in need of 600 donors

Aunt encourages Central Albertans to donate blood after losing nephew

Court considers banning diesel cars in German cities

BERLIN — A German court began considering Thursday whether authorities should ban… Continue reading

US women beat Canada in Olympic hockey; Gisin tops Shiffrin

PYEONGCHANG, Korea, Republic Of — A tense shootout, a dazzling deke and… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month