Jul 29 2014
Kurbo Health today announced the launch of Kurbo, the first safe and effective program to tackle the childhood obesity epidemic using mobile tools. For the first time, children, teens and their parents have access to a safe, effective and proven mobile platform for losing weight.
Incorporating smartphone apps, virtual feedback and live, personalized coaching, Kurbo teaches kids, teens and their families how to eat healthier and lose weight. Kurbo is based on the Stanford University Lucile Packard Children's Hospital's renowned pediatric obesity program, one of the best programs in the country, with an 80 percent success rate for participants.
Kurbo, which is part of Rock Health, a full-service seed fund for digital health startups, also announced it has raised $5.8 million in Series A funding, led by Signia Venture Partners. Other investors in the round include Data Collective, Bessemer Venture Partners and Promus Ventures, as well as Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, and Greg Badros, former VP of Engineering and Product at Facebook.
How Kurbo Works
Unlike adult-oriented programs that focus on calorie-counting, which can be dangerous for children, Kurbo is a comprehensive, evidence-backed system designed to empower and encourage kids to make healthier lifestyle choices. Kurbo's system follows the well-known "Traffic Light Diet" food classification system, which encourages users to consume fewer "red foods" (i.e., processed foods high in sugar and fat), more "greens" (most fruits and vegetables) and "yellows" (e.g., whole grain breads, dairy products, lean meats, etc.) in moderation. The system has three components: (1) the mobile app, which contains a food tracker, games, progress screens, videos and "Krunch" challenges; (2) virtual feedback and suggestions based on the foods tracked; and (3) live, expert coaching delivered via phone, video and text to give participants feedback, encouragement and recommendations.
Kurbo Co-founder and CEO Joanna Strober was inspired to create Kurbo after experiencing frustration in finding solutions when her 11-year-old son was told to lose weight by the family pediatrician. (For a quick video overview of the program and backstory, click here: http://vimeo.com/91775109).
"If an adult needs to lose weight, you might try MyFitnessPal or Weight Watchers, but neither of those is safe or even permitted for users under age eighteen," explains Strober. "We decided to take the best of the best hospital-based programs in the country and adapt them to the digital age. Kids love their cellphones, so why not put them to work to help with this problem?"
Operating in beta since February, Kurbo's first pilot program users, which included children, ages 8-18 from across the US, reported an 85 percent success rate in reducing their Body Mass Index (BMI) over the course of ten weeks.
"It's extremely rare for me to invest in any start-up, but with Kurbo there was an opportunity to help solve one of the world's biggest problems—childhood obesity—using mobile technology," says Wojcicki in explaining why she invested in Kurbo.
Kurbo Frees Parents from Playing the "Food Police"
For parents today, obesity is the number-one health concern they have for their kids, ahead of smoking, drinking or drugs. This is not surprising, given that one in three children in the U.S. are extremely overweight or obese, which often leads to health and psychological problems. Up to 80 percent of obese children will grow up to become obese adults.
Because Kurbo empowers kids and teens to make their own healthier lifestyle changes and eating decisions, it frees parents from having to act as the food police. This not only increases the program's effectiveness, but removes stress and strife from the family dynamic.
One Kurbo success story and early advocate is Tyler Signorello, a 13-year-old who has dropped seven percent of his BMI in ten weeks on the program. "Before starting, I was nervous about having to give up my favorite foods, but using Kurbo is actually fun! I like making my own choices and figuring out how get the best results, without having to listen to my mom bug me about what I'm eating and whether I'm exercising."
Kurbo Gives Pediatricians Options
Pediatricians have until now lacked good options to recommend to their overweight patients and frustrated parents. With Kurbo, pediatricians can now point parents toward an affordable and safe tool for helping their children reduce their BMI.
In fact, Kurbo has already started to partner with several large affordable health care organizations and payers to distribute the service to their pediatric patients.
According to noted pediatrician and frequent "Good Morning America" guest expert, Dr. Alan Greene, "Kurbo works. It teaches healthy eating in a fun, engaging and relatable way that leads to actual, long-term behavioral change."