Anthem, partners take multi-pronged approach to fight childhood obesity

A child holding a video game controller


Anthem Blue Cross is teaming with a California medical group and a healthcare mobile app developer to see whether one-on-one coaching, family education and an app to track it all can help curb childhood obesity.

Anthem is launching the pilot in San Benito County, California, which has the highest rate of childhood obesity in the state, according to an announcement. Along with San Benito Medical Associates, the insurer will offer weekly, individualized coaching to pediatric members whose body mass index is in the 85th percentile or higher.

It’s another instance of how health insurers are offering tools to help their members lead healthier lives. Independence Blue Cross, for example, recently completed research showing that employer-based group plan programs that actively encourage members to walk and provide performance-based rewards help members lose more weight, lower their blood pressure and feel better than passively managed walking programs.

The childhood obesity program offers 90 days of free instruction and nutrition tracking through the Kurbo Health app. Anthem describes the mobile app as a tool for tracking food and activity, and for playing games that “reinforce healthy choices.” Educational material includes a “food traffic light system” that classifies foods as green, yellow or red to help guide food choices. Kurbo also provides the coaches for weekly one-on-one sessions.

“Our goal is to demonstrate how evidence-based interventions like Kurbo can, through mobile experiences and personal coaching, improve nutrition, increase physical activity and decrease weight,” Ruth Raskas, who leads Anthem’s Community Health team, said in the announcement.

Anthem said it thinks it will be about a year before it has a large enough sample to determine whether the program is successful.

- read the announcement