Public bicycles in Melbourne, Australia. Photo by: rubixcom / CC BY-ND

MANILA — Would you ride for your health, or for a free movie ticket? In the city of Melbourne, an app allows riders to get both.

The Green Money app is a rewards-based incentive platform that poses challenges to Melbourne city dwellers such as biking or using a reusable mug for their morning coffee. In return, they earn points, which can later be used to redeem from national and local businesses, or events. The options are wide and varied, such as free passes to the Melbourne Sea Life Aquarium and discounts for a movie ticket.

The app was initially launched to encourage and motivate city dwellers to live a greener lifestyle. But in March, the local government, as part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Partnership for Healthy Cities, decided to work with the developers to expand the app’s focus and encourage healthier habits.

The program, dubbed the Get Moving challenge, encourages local residents and city workers to become more physically active by walking or cycling around the city. It was launched by the local government in the hope of preventing and bringing down prevalence of noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

In 2016, City of Melbourne profiled the health and well-being of the city’s population, and found almost 50 percent of the adult population was not doing enough exercise. Some do no exercise whatsoever.

The same survey revealed prevalence of several noncommunicable diseases: Hypertension (17.4 percent), arthritis (16.8 percent), asthma (9.6 percent), cancer (6.7 percent), heart disease (6.2 percent), and type 2 diabetes (2.9 percent).

“A major issue for Melbourne is our predominantly office-based community. In our city, 77 percent of adults say their work-based activity is mostly sitting. This is significantly higher than the Victorian state average of 49,” said Melbourne Mayor Sally Capp. “Unfortunately, these stats are getting worse over time and present a major challenge moving forward. We have to find creative ways to encourage more active lifestyles for those of us who work and live in the city.”

Seeing an opportunity in the Green Money app, City of Melbourne was able to roll out their program quickly and engage users already using the platform.

Mayor Capp told Devex the program allows them to combine multiple goals of having a city that cares for the environment and supports its people’s health and well-being, while being able to promote local businesses, attractions, and events.

Since its launch, the Get Moving challenge has been taken up by more than 660 people, said Capp.

The program currently runs as a pilot, and the city is evaluating how to improve the user experience and get more people to sign up. City of Melbourne is host to more than 148,000 residents and 1 million people who travel in the city on an average weekday, while some 4.5 million reside in the greater Melbourne area.

The city also needs to address several barriers to participation, such as safer cycling routes, which the mayor is aware would lead to greater levels of physical activity among the city’s population.

“We all have to work together to promote a healthy lifestyle, as well as strategically plan, develop and maintain infrastructure and activities that encourage public participation in a healthy lifestyle,” she said.

Asked what she thinks should be included in the discussions in New York next month, at the high-level meeting on NCDs, the mayor underscored collaboration.

“The discussion about NCDs has been going on for years, so we think it’s less about what’s missing and more about continuing to support greater cooperation and collaboration across all levels of government and private industry to tackle them,” she said.

This is part of a miniseries on how cities are tackling NCDs in the line up to the third United Nations high-level meeting on NCDs. The cities featured here are all part of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Partnership for Healthy Cities.

For more coverage of NCDs, visit the Taking the Pulse series here.

About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.

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