Ten years ago, a landmark diabetes study funded by the National Institutes of Health delivered staggering results: Modest weight loss through dietary changes and increased physical activity could cut a prediabetic’s risk of developing the disease by 58 percent.
Now fast forward to 2012, where a team of technologists, entrepreneurs and clinicians at Omada Health have taken it upon themselves to translate the curriculum used in that study into an online program that’s more widely accessible and affordable for the general public.
Omada’s Prevent is based on the methods used in the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) study, which tested a comprehensive behavioral weight-loss program in more than 3,200 people with prediabetes. The success of that study gave way to continued use of the program through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and partner organizations.
“If that trial had been a pill, it probably would have become a billion-dollar drug and the gold standard in care,” said Omada CEO Sean Duffy. “But the DPP was a behavior change program — challenging and expensive to roll out.”
Prevent is a 16-week diabetes prevention program designed to help at-risk people develop healthier habits through social support, data tracking, personalized coaching and structured learning.
Upon signing up, participants are mailed a welcome kit that includes a mobile-enabled scale that is preregistered to their email. They are matched with a professional health coach and a small group of peers, and can track their weight loss and health progress online. Then the program takes them through 16 lessons on healthy eating, activities and habits based on curriculum standards developed by the CDC. The lessons contain text, visuals and some interactive elements, Duffy said.
A pilot study in 230 people with prediabetes resulted in an average weight loss of 13.7 pounds after 16 weeks.
Prevent launches today to the general public, and Duffy said the company is working to develop partnerships with some provider organizations and third-party payers. For consumer use, the program costs $120 per month for four months.
Duffy said a lot of time was spent on making a product that people would actually want to use. “Our general feeling is that it’s not just visual design; it’s the design of the whole experience,” Duffy said. “Historically, the most successful behavior change programs were conducted on the ground, and they enabled people to form social relationships with each other. We want to encourage the same kind of relationships to be formed online.”
Duffy, who has worked at Google and design firm IDEO, co-founded Omada with another former IDEO designer, Adrian James, and software entrepreneur Andrew DiMichele. This time last year, they had just finished the Rock Health accelerator program and were closing an $800,000 seed round from New Enterprise Associates, Aberdare Ventures and other angel and venture investors.
The program targets the 79 million U.S. adults with prediabetes, 25 percent to 50 percent of who will develop type 2 diabetes within five years.
[Photo from Omada Health]