DENVER — Are you a healthcare provider who regularly encounters young patients struggling with obesity? If so, you are not alone. According to the CDC, one in every three young Americans is overweight or obese.
Unfortunately, weight loss options for children and adolescents are not widely available, with most programs that target childhood obesity localized in hospitals or in small-scale government initiatives.
In an attempt to increase the availability of effective treatments for this widespread condition, digital health startup Kurbo Health has developed an innovative online weight-loss program accessible through a smartphone, tablet, or computer.
As described by Co-Founder Thea Runyan at a recent panel on childhood obesity in Denver, Colorado, Kurbo is “a mobile-based weight loss program designed specifically to help children and families create healthy habits.”
By integrating best practices from the successful Center for Healthy Weight program at Stanford University, Kurbo Health makes effective weight loss available to young people across the nation. The program rewards its users for tracking their food, watching educational videos, and exercising.
Children and teens begin by picking a health coach, who meets with them once a week to discuss their progress, deliver encouragement, and adjust the program to fit their needs. According to Runyon, having a coach “takes the parent out of the situation a little bit,” making it easier for children and teens to stay engaged.
In the app, foods are color-coded by healthiness, and portions are measured in handfuls to make it easier for young people to record the amount they eat. If a user is going to a birthday party where they know they won’t be able to avoid “red” foods, their coaches will encourage them to make better dietary choices in the days leading up to the party.
Kurbo’s online programs are usually three to six months long, though children and teens often continue to use the app after completing a program. A recent three-month beta test showed positive outcomes for Kurbo users, with 90% of them reducing their BMI at a healthy rate.