Anne Marie Kirby: A Woman to Watch

Kirby co-founded CoreHealth Technologies in 2004. The company now provides corporate wellness platforms to two million employees.

  • Aug. 25, 2016 7:00 a.m.
Anne Marie Kirby

Anne Marie Kirby

Anne Marie Kirby started laying the foundations for entrepreneurship soon after becoming disillusioned with small-town ideas of achievement.

“I grew up in northern B.C., where people didn’t really go on to post secondary school. The most ambitious thing you could do was work at the local bank, because then you could get promotions and leave town later,” Kirby explained.

“So, after high school I worked at the bank for a few years, but I was working for a manager who didn’t want to promote me until I had six years of experience—so I went back to school for computer programming.”

Kirby soon practiced her programming skills in the health industry, working on hospital information systems. But she quickly found that health prevention and promotion was a more appealing niche.

“I’d rather deal with healthy people,” Kirby said. “But the market wasn’t there yet, so I watched it for a few years before starting my business.”

Kirby co-founded CoreHealth Technologies with Jeff Van Dyk in 2004. The company now provides businesses with a corporate wellness platform that supports two million employees all over the world.

For Kirby, the next major development in health technology will involve a more personalized and more fun way to maintain active lifestyles and engage in healthy behaviour.

“We’re looking at using notifications to bring information to people, rather than having people search out information. Technology can be a lot smarter about presenting the right information at the right time—so in heath tech, we’re moving from a ‘pull’ Internet to a ‘push’ Internet.”

Kirby also says that incorporating deliberate design into wellness programs will be critical in the future. Wellness is a complex problem, she says, and engineering-style thinking that involves multiple iterations of a solution will be a necessary approach.

One key area where Kirby wants to focus her effort is on making health technology accessible and fun for users.

“I’m a huge fan of Pokémon Go,” she said. “It’s the best thing that has ever happened to health and wellness technology. Nintendo has motivated a group of people who wouldn’t normally leave their computers to get out and get active—that’s a huge lesson for the world. I want our industry to start thinking about how people can get healthier by doing things they already want to do.”

Kirby says that the best corporate wellness programs incorporate a strong motivational aspect that promotes healthy habits in a new and exciting way.

“If you go to some of the industry websites, they all talk about the same process. So it’s well documented what has to happen in order to make a wellness program successful, but almost nobody actually does it.”

Kirby says that one of the best examples of making a wellness program fun and motivational comes from a CoreHealth client, employment benefits consultancy Morneau Shepell.

“Morneau Shepell is an Olympic sponsor, so they have contact with Canadian Olympic athletes—and they launched a program that brings athletes into the company to talk to employees about wellness programs. I don’t think you can get more motivational than working with Olympic athletes. Again, it goes back to finding a creative way to get people involved in something relevant and enjoyable.”

Kirby’s philosophy of getting healthy through fun activities extends into her personal life, where she strives to help children and young adults develop healthy habits. She serves as the Rotary Club Youth Exchange Officer for Kelowna, which gives her a prime opportunity to help youth get involved in the community. She’s also an avid skier and sailing enthusiast.

And while Kirby is now managing a successful and respected business, her path hasn’t been without its challenges. One of the biggest challenges she faces in her field is convincing people that they need a wellness solution.

“People don’t value their own health. It’s very illogical, which is a real struggle for me as a (logically-minded) computer person. That’s the hardest thing—employers try to help people, but they don’t want to do anything for their own good.”

Still, Kirby’s passion for health and wellness continues to drive her to promote healthy

behaviours in the workplace—in part because of a wise yet simple lesson she learned from her son.

“When my son was two years old, we were in a restaurant and we had a waitress who was saying that she wanted to go to school, but she couldn’t stop waitressing. My son said, ‘never, ever give up’—and the waitress said, ‘that’s the wisest thing I’ve ever heard.’”

Kirby says that stubborn resilience is what kept her going in spite of industry criticism. During one early investor meeting, she was taken aback when a potential investor told her to get a haircut.

Kirby says that she could have chosen to quit, but decided instead to continue growing CoreHealth out of her love for the industry.

“Wellness is one of the few things that, the more you sell, the better off everyone is. You can be successful and proud at the same time.”

 

Crowe MacKay’s Women to Watch program is a weekly feature that profiles remarkable women in our community, concluding Oct. 16. After terrific response, the nomination period for 2015 is now closed. Watch this space each week to see our remaining Women to Watch.

Kelowna Capital News

Just Posted

Kelowna Fire Department. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Abandonded campfire results in Kelowna bushfire

The fire was measured at 20 feet by 20 feet in size and has been deemed not suspicious in nature

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce will host the Valley Wide Business Expo May 4 at Predator Ridge Resort. (photo submitted)
Golf raffle helps Okanagan families score homes

Habitat for Humanity Okanagan swinging into action this summer with a new raffle

(Facebook/Kelowna Cabs)
Kelowna Cabs reaches tentative agreement with dispatchers union

The tentative agreement could help end the dispute between the taxi company and the dispatchers

sdaf
Lake Country home destroyed in large blaze, 11 dogs rescued

Fire crews are responding to 10839 Hallam Drive

Bear wanders Kelowna on June 15. (Michelle Wallace/Facebook)
Bear climbs fence, uses crosswalk in Kelowna

The bear was spotted on Baron Road Wednesday evening

Jeanette Megens
KCR: Volunteering is sharing your story

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

A section of the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies is seen west of Cochrane, Alta., Thursday, June 17, 2021. A joint federal-provincial review has denied an application for an open-pit coal mine in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, saying its impacts on the environment and Indigenous rights aren’t worth the economic benefits it would bring. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Panel says Grassy Mountain coal mine in Alberta Rockies not in public interest

Public hearings on the project in southern Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass region were held last fall

An old growth cedar stands in a cut-block within the Caycuse Valley. More than 100 prominent Canadians, have signed an open letter calling for the immediate protection of all remaining old-growth forests in B.C. (Submitted)
Brian Mulroney and Greta Thunberg among 100 celebrities pushing to save B.C. old growth

List includes Indigenous leaders, scientists, authors, Oscar winners

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on Friday, February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
U.S. border restrictions to remain in place until at least July 21

Safety minister says Canada, U.S. extending restrictions on non-essential international travel

This photo of the small wildfire burning above Naramata was taken at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021 (Monique Tamminga Western News)
BC Wildfire on scene of small wildfire above Naramata

Smoke has been showing since earlier in the day

Students in the Grade 10 entrepreneurship program at Summerland Unisus School have completed a cookbook with international recipes. (Contributed)
Summerland students create virtual international cookbook

Entrepreneurship program at Summerland Unisus School uses virtual cookbook as fundraiser

Hundreds of people, young and old, joined the three-day Walking Our Spirits Home procession, honouring residential school survivors, those who never made it home and all those affected by the institutions. Here people walk the third portion on June 13. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Walking Our Spirits Home from Kamloops provides path to healing

First Nations in and beyond Secwépemc territory join in to honour residential school survivors

Most Read