Friday, 7 January 2011

The Great Swapathon: What does it offer besides vouchers?

Earlier in the week Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, announced announced the Government's first major Public Health campaign of the New Year. The Great Swapathon, under the Change4Life brand, aims to 'nudge' people into swapping unhealthy habits for healthy lifestyle choices. The initiative comprises offer healthy eating voucher books and an online tool to help identify and encourage 'swaps'.

Media coverage, in the Daily Mail, the Guardian, and many other outlets, has focused on the vouchers and specifically, the big business brands offering sponsorship for the scheme. Rather than do the same, let's take a look at the online tool.

This involes setting up a user profile, then going through a health questionnaire, and finally choosing from appropriate 'swaps'.

Going through the questionnaire, it's surprisingly gentle. No questions about smoking or with the implication that you might be over drinking, which you may expect from such initiatives in the past. It's very much in line with the Government's 'nudge' thinking, where people aren't told what to do or made to feel guilty, but instead encouraged to make better choices.

Once the questionnaire is complete, the website provides you with a health rating (mine was happily 'good'). You're then taken to the first 'swap'. For me 'drink' was offered, with several options to choose from. Again, these weren't the usual, strict 'don't drink' style suggestions, but rather gentle 'nudges', such as "Have a non-alcoholic spacer between drinks" or "Opt for a smaller glass".

Once an option is selected, the next page says that it's more fun to share the experience and options are offered to invite friends via email or facebook. I didn't invite any friends, but did allow the associated facebook app to access my information.

And that's it. My swap is due to start tomorrow, so I'll report back with what help and encouragement the website provides. I'm sure this will include emails, but I'm really interested to see what comes from the facebook app. More and more research is finding that the social element provided by sites such as facebook can be hugely helpful in encouraging behavioural change. I look forward to seeing if and how the Great Swapathon takes advantage of this.

On Monday, we'll be publishing an article looking at this in more depth, specifically focusing on the massive benefits that Social Gaming can offer.  The Great Swapathon is a year long campaign, so bringing in a gaming element in the future may well be a good idea.

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