Creating a healthier post-pandemic nation

post pandemic nation, public health england
© Milkos

Lockdowns, furloughs, and increased restrictions left many reconsidering their health and making positive changes to their lifestyle, discusses Ian Pocock, Managing Director, Research & Service Design, Engine Transformation

Gym closures caused a rise in virtual exercise classes and ‘pocket PTs’, meaning fitness brands extended free trials or abolished subscription charges altogether. A World Economic Forum report (1) noted a 46% increase in fitness app downloads in 2020 globally, with daily active users climbing 24% between Q1 and Q2. (2) Experts believe a new hybrid way of exercising is here to stay, with 75% of people retaining an online element once returning to the gym, changing the $32 billion industry. (3)

The industry needs to quickly transform to service the needs of the hybrid customer, and we believe commercial players can learn from a five-year-old government sponsored concept that is still making an impact today.

How can a five-year-old app still top the charts? By focusing on One You!

In 2016 Public Health England launched their One You campaign to improve the nation’s health. Specifically, they decided to build a suite of digital services to drive behaviour and lifestyle change among 40-60 year-olds. They asked Engine Transformation to help them with the design and build of this toolset.

post pandemic nation, public health england

With the rise in lifestyle related health concerns, any improvements to peoples’ health behaviour would benefit the NHS. The technological aspect of building the app was relatively trivial. However, the behaviour change part was challenging.

We undertook a wide-ranging research and design programme. By using behavioural science and analysing existing healthcare data, we could understand pain points in the journey towards changing behaviours – using this to design the digital tools for enabling awareness, understanding and action.

Now we had the required technology and service design, we needed to add the final elements: The digital brand, the brand guidelines and strategic assets to enable local delivery partners to maximise the campaign.

As with health, One You covered a range of behaviours – therefore, the tools varied in shape and design. They included:

  • “How Are You?” – to understand the impact of choices on overall health.
  • NHS SmokeFree – for assistance in quitting smoking.
  • Sugar Smart – to develop a better awareness of sugar content in food.
  • The world-famous Couch to 5k app.

Couch to 5k was originally a concept invented in the U.S., many programmes support it, but the Public Health England one remains the most widely used. It is an innovative approach to build beginners into confident runners through a nine-week programme. Runners can also select from a range of celebrity voices, provided by the BBC.

Providing longevity

Public Health England witnessed 1.2 million website visitors within the first month, with over 950,000 using the ‘How Are You?” tool and 77% com-pleting the health quiz. There were over 5 million users across the different services – the first-month post-launch saw 114,000 users across the four apps, and the NHS even backed the scheme – but the success has not stopped there.

post pandemic nation, public health england

As with the rise in home gyms and fitness apps, Couch to 5k also made noticeable strides. In the first three months of the pandemic, downloads increased 92% – jumping to 858,000 from 448,000 versus the previous year.

Over a year since the pandemic began, Public Health England has shared that Couch to 5k has passed 2.36 million users over the 18 months. The ongoing success of One You has led it to become an internationally drawn upon model.

Engine Transformation helped take the concept global, adapting the model for the Australian Government’s award-winning ‘Life Checks.’ This was Australia’s first major behavioural change service, and in the first six weeks the site had 130,000 visits with over 50,000 tool completions – with 25% using the recommended resource links.

So, why has One You continued to be successful?

  • The combination of disciplines driving deep insight into user behaviours with solid prototyping and testing of the service prior to launch.
  • The co-operation between Engine Transformation and Public Health England’s policy and digital teams, leading to a good handover and continued development of the technology and content of the app.
  • The close co-operation between the team developing the service and the team preparing for branding and launch, leading to a fully integrated campaign with a well-functioning service.

All this might seem trivial, things we know must be right for a service to succeed. But much like we know that we should exercise to feel better, the trivial can often be hard to do. Projects fail because they are driven by a single idea rather than a unified team that understands how the eco-system’s parts interconnect. We have experience of many more stories of how to succeed and fail in digital service development.

Engine Transformation is a digital and data consultancy, specialising in customer-led transformation thorough strategy, technology, and insight.







Please note: This is a commercial profile

© 2019. This work is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license

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Managing Director, Research & Service Design
Engine Transformation
Phone: +44 (0)20 3128 8000
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