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Yes Health: Preventing Type 2 Diabetes with a Mobile App and Health Coach

Published: 3/29/16
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Plus, a partnership with UCSF to drive better research.   

At the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference earlier this month, we learned about a new type 2 diabetes prevention program: Yes Health. The mobile app leverages the successful results from the Diabetes Prevention Program and offers nutrition and fitness education, logging, and guidance from a personal health coach. Yes Health is available for free download on the Apple iTunes app store; after a four-week trial period, users can opt to enroll in the 16-week core program for $39 per month ($156 total). The app has not been available for very long, though the handful of early reviews are very positive. 

What distinguishes Yes Health from other digital diabetes prevention programs, such as DPS Health, Noom Health, and Omada Health? First, Yes Health is completely mobile, while other programs use a mix of web and mobile (or web alone). Second, each Yes Health user is assigned a personal health coach team that provides instant 1:1 feedback and is available 14 hours per day. Coaches provide motivation and custom recommendations on nutrition and fitness, and users can also upload photos to receive additional feedback. Third, the app provides a personalized plan with suggestions for healthy meals, fitness activities, and well-being exercises (e.g., meditation, deep breathing). Finally, Yes Health is marketed directly to consumers, while most other programs are available through healthcare and insurance providers.

At SXSW, Yes Health announced a partnership with the Diabetes Center at UCSF to help researchers collect and analyze large amounts of behavioral data. App users can choose to opt-in to share their anonymous behavioral data, such as diet, exercise, and sleep patterns, with UCSF researchers studying type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. This data could be combined with genetic and biological data to more precisely define who might benefit from which treatments. This growing area of study is called “precision medicine,” and has potential to improve patient outcomes and offer more personalized care (President Obama hosted a panel on precision medicine recently, featuring diabetes thanks to participation by Tidepool’s Howard Look). 

A shocking 86 million American adults (1 in 3) have blood sugar levels in the prediabetes range, yet 90% are unaware of it. Without intervention, an estimated 15-30% of people with prediabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes within five years (and up to 70% will develop type 2 diabetes during their lifetime). The CDC’s Diabetes Prevention Program has proven effective in lowering participants’ A1c and decreasing their risk for diabetes, but not everybody is aware or has access to these in-person programs due to lack of insurance coverage or simply inconvenience. That’s why it is heartening to see many accessible digital options emerging such as Yes Health. –NK/AB

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