Health IT

Mental health app startup finds traction on college campuses with eating disorder program

ThriveOn thinks it can cut out some of the stigma, access and cost challenges around seeking help for mental health issues by turning evidence-based treatment programs into mobile platforms that people can use privately on their own time.

Its first product is called Healthy Body Image, and the program itself was developed back in 2004 at Stanford and Washington University. ThriveOn took the content from that program and turned it into an app that’s now being distributed to thousands of college students across the country.

The program starts with an online evaluation that gauges a person’s behaviors and self-image. Based on those results and ThriveOn’s algorithms, each user is assigned to a custom, 10-week program that meets his or her specific needs. That program includes reading material, journal entries and virtual coaching that can be accessed via web or mobile app.


Co-founder Alejandro Foung told investors and press Tuesday at Rock Health’s fifth demo day that results from pilots with 3,000 students at Stanford University and Washington University in Saint Louis delivered promising results. Use of HBI resulted in a 50 percent reduction in disordered eating behavior among students and did so for about one-tenth of the cost of therapy, he reported.

The startup has received $40,000 to spread the program to public universities in Missouri over two years, Foung said. Another $4 million grant will fund distribution of the program to 28 universities across the country beginning October 1. By January, he estimated the app will reach 400,000 students.

Next up, the company is developing a program for stress management. Anxiety, depression and sleep disorders are potential future markets, Foung said.

[Video from angellist; Image credit: flickr user JPott;]

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