Loyalty health app to be trialled in Leeds

Paul Baverstock and Alistair Brownlee with the Caterpillar app

An app designed to reduce health inequalities has been launched as a pilot scheme across Leeds.

The Caterpillar App has been hailed by Tom Riordan, CEO of Leeds City Council, as a potential ‘gamechanger’ during the cost-of-living crisis.

It aims to engage those who might not be able to afford monthly gym memberships.

Backed by two-time Olympic gold medallist and public health advocate, Alistair Brownlee, the Caterpillar App, aims to encourage small steps that could lead to big changes.

It works by rewarding achievable small daily changes, such as increasing our daily steps or making healthy changes to our dietary habits.

Working with Leeds City Council, Caterpillar aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of the app in Leeds and evidence user engagement.

Its ambition is to have large population-level outcomes, helping to prevent avoidable ill-health such as obesity, Type-2 diabetes, heart failure and common cancers.

Caterpillar chief executive and founder Paul Baverstock said: “We’re using Nobel Prize-winning behavioural science techniques to help people create healthy habits that stick. This isn’t for those who set extreme fitness challenges or track every calorie, it’s for those who might struggle to engage with and make small and important changes in their lives.”

Caterpillar connects to health apps such as Google Fit and Apple Health, and sets personalised physical activity goals. It uses the latest expert information to help people make choices about their dietary habits.  This is linked to a reward scheme, so users earn points for making better choices.

Points can currently be redeemed for Vue Cinema tickets and Hussle gym passes.

The Leeds-based health-tech start-up recently received £450,000 funding from investors, including venture capital firm Jenson Funding Partners, to expand its range of loyalty schemes and add new features to the app.

Caterpillar is based at Leeds University and was incubated by the Leeds City Council’s BUILD programme in 2021.

The technology has the backing of behavioural scientists and academics, including Professor Marc Mitchell of Western University Canada and Professor Stuart Flint of Leeds University; both will evaluate the Leeds pilot.

Baverstock said: “Piloting Caterpillar in Leeds is a no-brainer. Leeds not only has the fastest growing digital economy outside of London, but it’s pioneering in tackling health inequalities, is home to world-leading universities and one of Europe’s biggest teaching hospitals.”

Brownlee said: “As an athlete, I know how important good nutrition and being active is to a healthy lifestyle. You don’t have to be a professional athlete to live well. I’m passionate that no matter what your age or ability, you can make tiny changes each day that will improve your wellbeing. Caterpillar offers some great rewards to encourage those changes and hopefully, help more people discover their amazing benefits – not just for themselves, but their loved ones, and wider society.”

Caterpillar is also partnering with Dietary Assessment, the company behind myfood24 – a diet monitoring and nutritional analysis software used for healthcare, research and education.

Riordan added: “We’re proud to back digital innovation coming out of Leeds, especially a start-up like Caterpillar that could have huge positive social impact. The idea of promoting healthy choices and changes to physical activity and dietary habits aligns with our own ambitions to give the people of Leeds healthy and fulfilling lives.”