Childhood obesity has serious health and economic consequences, and is estimated to cost $14 billion annually in direct health expenses. Since September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, we’ve compiled a sample of connected health apps intended to address and curb rising childhood obesity rates.
In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the United States. In 2012, nearly 18% of children (ages 6-11) and 21% of adolescents (ages 12-19) were considered obese, defined as having a Body Mass Index of 30 or more.
Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term effects on health and well-being. Obese children and adolescents are more likely to suffer from bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and low self-esteem. In a population-based sample of obese 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% had one or more risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Obese adolescents are also more likely to have prediabetes, indicating high risk for development of diabetes in the future.
Change Talk: Childhood Obesity is an app created by Kognito and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Institute for Healthy Childhood Weight (IHCW). “The goal of the app is really to help healthcare professionals who work with pediatric populations to know how to manage challenging conversations with their family around changes in their behavior,” said Kognito CEO Rob Goldman. Physicians can use the app to practice talking to virtual patients about childhood obesity; a status bar above the patients’ heads within the app indicates whether the conversation is providing the patients with motivation to change. This app may help doctors undertake successful interventions that can help entire families lead healthier lives.
Kurbo Health’s mobile-enabled program is designed for users ages 8 to 18, but is intended to encourage participation with the whole family. The app’s manual entry food tracker assigns colors to different foods, helping kids understand on a basic level which foods are healthy and unhealthy. Also included in the app are games, challenges, a progress section, and weekly individual online coaching sessions. These individualized online coaching sessions are what sets Kurbo apart from the many online calorie trackers and apps on the market.
Zamzee, “the game that gets kids moving,” is an activity meter and accompanying online program that works to make physical activity fun by converting physical activity, collected by the Zamzee Activity Monitor, into Pointz, which children use online to play games, compete with friends, and earn real-life rewards.
GeoPalz are colorful pedometers that come in an array of shapes—from animals to sports— meant for children ages 5 and older. Children using GeoPalz can then record physical activity on the GeoPalz site and exchange steps for parent directed rewards, virtual games, and gift cards.
The Withings Smart Kid Scale is a connected baby and toddler scale designed to help parents track and assess their child’s health and growth from birth to 8 years old. Its dedicated app helps parents track their children’s growth path, with visualized weight trends and development charts that can be compared to set standards. Parents can also share this information with their pediatrician, leading to early intervention if children are at risk for becoming overweight.
First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative is also using digital resources to help encourage children and parents make informed decisions about nutrition and health. The site contains information about food and nutrition, physical activity, and strategies for families, schools, and communities to help children avoid childhood obesity.
By Katie McCray