Innovative program tackles blood pressure risk

Canada’s first health-related social impact bond shows promising results

Program update

Please note that Activate is no longer accepting participants. Since 2018 we helped over 4,500 pre-hypertensive participants manage their blood pressure. We are undergoing a formal program evaluation and are exploring further opportunities for Activate and look forward to sharing these results in 2021!


Heart & Stroke is excited to be working with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing (MCII) on an innovative program called Activate, formerly known as the Community Hypertension Prevention Initiative (CHPI). It’s a free six-month wellness program to help at-risk people from developing high blood pressure (hypertension).

Why high blood pressure?

High blood pressure is the number one risk for stroke and a leading risk factor for heart disease. Without intervention, half of all pre-hypertensive people over 60 in Canada will develop high blood pressure within four years. Heart disease and stroke are leading causes of death, taking the lives of more than 66,000 Canadians every year, one every seven minutes.

What are the results so far?

Phase 1 of the Activate program saw over 90% of 500 people complete the program. Blood pressure readings for 112 of these participants showed an average 5 mmHg drop in the systolic rate. The target for success was set by cardiologists at no increase in blood pressure readings, but an overall decrease is even more desirable.

What happens next?

After a successful Phase 1, Heart & Stroke began enrolling 4,100 participants for Phase 2 starting Jan. 15, 2019. Enrollment takes place at select Shoppers Drug Mart stores and YMCA locations across the GTA.

Phase 3 of Activate will be live in in early 2020 in Vancouver and aim to enroll 2,400 participants. When it’s complete, Heart & Stroke will have helped over 7,000 people in Canada to lead healthier, active lives.

How is it funded?

Funding for Activate comes from a pay-for-success (PFS) model or social impact bond (SIB). Working closely with the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, Heart & Stroke has attracted philanthropically minded private investors to provide upfront capital. The federal government, through the Public Health Agency of Canada, repays the investors based on successful outcomes. This is only the second time in Canada that this funding model has been used, and the first time for a large-scale chronic disease prevention initiative.

How can I get involved?

Heart & Stroke is actively recruiting for Phase 2 with the general public as well as with employers and associations across the GTA who are interested in bringing this free wellness program to their organizations.

For more information on the program and collaboration opportunities, go to

Learn more about Activate’s early success and plans to expand across the GTA in this Toronto Star article and CTV News Toronto video.