Lauren DeVos, Rock Health Strategy Fellow, MBA/MPH Candidate at UC Berkeley
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released its latest set of recommendations last month. While the experts quabble over the fine print (no, we don’t recommend reading all 571 pages), more than 110 million Americans with lifestyle-related chronic disease struggle to make sense of what they should and should not eat. Most consumers fall short of meeting recommended nutrition goals, and public policy is only slowly addressing the issue. Fortunately, a number of innovative digital health companies have popped up to address the gap.
These digital health companies must not only incorporate the most up-to-date evidence-based guidelines into their programs—which is no easy feat since nutrition research is constantly advancing—but must also crack the code on how to get consumers to change their behavior for the better. This last point, I’d argue, is the hard part; it takes at the minimum a combination of evidence-driven interventions, tailored recommendations, and savvy insight into consumer behavior.
If the first step is change, the next is continuation. Once we have a taste of healthier behavior, whether that’s eating more leafy greens or buying less processed foods, what can we do to make those behaviors the norm?
Here are a few digital health companies that are making a real impact on consumer health by tackling the complex relationship of nutrition, diet, and lasting behavior change.
Problem it tackles: Pre-diabetes and weight management for adults
How it works: Omada Health’s flagship product, Prevent, is based on the landmark Diabetes Prevention Program clinical trial. Individuals with any combination of high blood sugar, high blood pressure, dyslipidemia, or obesity are eligible. Through one-on-one support from a professional health coach, small group support, and a 16-week behavior change curriculum, Prevent supports individuals in regular exercise and a healthy diet to help delay or prevent progression to diabetes.
Omada partners with integrated delivery networks, like Kaiser Permanente, and large insurance companies, such as Humana. Since launching, Omada has demonstrated that its program participants lose on average 5% of their body weight. And, as evidence that Omada stands behind its product entirely, it goes at-risk with customers, with over half of its payments linked to outcomes.
Problem it tackles: Weight management for children and teens
How it works: Kurbo is a mobile/online health and weight management program created specifically for children, teens, and their parents. The 3-month program is based on 30 years of childhood obesity research at Stanford University and SUNY Buffalo supporting children and teens in achieving their health and weight management goals. Kurbo combines the use of a state-of-the-art mobile app with expert health coaching to help families learn better eating habits, exercise more and take control of their weight to become healthier and more confident.
Kurbo Health partners with physicians, employers, and payers and also offers its product directly to consumers. Kurbo is in the midst of starting a trial with a Medicaid health plan that will offer the program to its members.
Problem it tackles: Healthy eating at home and on the go
How it works: Zipongo is a digital health company that makes it easy to eat well. Their proprietary personalization engine delivers individualized recommendations tied to convenient, real-time actions that enable healthy eating at home and at work. Zipongo provides healthy recipes, meal planning tools and discounts and incentives to healthy groceries. They work with employers, health plans and integrates with other wellness partners, and recently entered a partnership with Microsoft to help its employees eat healthier.
This is the first of two blog posts about the importance of nutrition in digital health. Stay tuned for part two.