An estimated 5 million Americans develop eating disorders each year, and that number has risen since the start of the pandemic. But only about 20% of those people receive treatment, with even fewer gaining access to evidence-based therapies.
Digital health startup Equip set out to boost that rate. The company grabbed $58 million in a series B round to improve access to eating disorder treatments with its all-virtual platform.
The Chernin Group led the series B round joined by new investors Tiger Global and General Catalyst as well as existing investors F-Prime Capital, Optum Ventures and .406 Ventures.
Equip delivers a family-based treatment model, a leading outpatient therapy for adolescents with eating disorders that’s been shown to reduce the chance of relapse by including parents in their child’s road to recovery.
“Treatment for eating disorders is grossly inequitable,” said Kristina Saffran, CEO and co-founder of Equip, in a statement. “Eating disorders are the second deadliest mental illness, affecting one in 10 Americans—yet the stigma attached to the disease prevents tens of millions of people from getting help. Equip’s mission is to ensure that every single person has access to treatment that works. That starts with shifting the conversation around what eating disorders are and who they impact.”
Saffran founded Project HEAL at 15 years old to help increase access to eating disorder treatments after recovering from anorexia herself.
Over a decade later, in 2019, she teamed up with clinical psychologist and researcher Erin Parks, Ph.D., to launch Equip as an all-virtual center for family-based treatment.
The startup’s approach relies on comprehensive support from a five-person care team comprising a therapist, a physician, a peer mentor, a family mentor and a dietitian to provide patients with a higher likelihood of lasting recovery.
After eight weeks of treatment, 71% of Equip’s patients reported a reduction in eating disorder symptoms, and 96% of parents reported feeling more confident about caring for a child with an eating disorder, the company said.
The San Diego-based company has raised $75 million to date, most recently banking a $13 million series A round led by Optum Ventures in February 2021.
Equip now operates in more than 40 states and partners with 10 major commercial insurers including Cigna, Anthem, Aetna, Optum and United Healthcare.
The startup plans to use the fresh capital to expand into all 50 states in 2022, partner with more payers—including Medicaid—and launch new care offerings.
As part of the round, Jesse Jacobs, co-founder and partner at The Chernin Group, will join Equip’s board of directors, along with Mary Ann Tocio, One Medical board member and former president and chief operating officer of Bright Horizons.
“Eating disorders are a major societal issue that need immediate attention, more funding from private and public sources, and more solutions for patients and families,” Jacobs said in a statement. “We believe Kristina, Erin, and Equip are at the forefront of helping to democratize accessible, effective eating disorder care at scale through a digital-first solution.”
Digital mental health startups raked in $5.5 billion in venture funding last year, a 139% increase from 2020.
Despite increasing competition, investors appear to still have an appetite for the sector—68% of the deals were early-stage, suggesting mental health tech has more room to grow.