A Weight-Loss App Targeting Children Raises Concerns

Weight-loss app, Kurbo, targets children between the ages of 8-years-old and 17-years-old.

Fruit lays on a plate.
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Weight-loss app, Kurbo, targets children between the ages of 8-years-old and 17-years-old.

Childhood obesity is a major issue, particularly in the United States. However, weight loss when it comes to children is a sensitive topic. Tackling obesity in the wrong manner can cause serious issues for a child’s overall health and self-esteem. Kurbo is an app which is supposed to help children between the ages of 8-years-old and 17-years-old with weight-loss through healthy eating. It has raised quite a stir with physicians and parents who worry that the app, when used incorrectly or without parental supervision, could lead to major body image problems as well as dangerous eating habits, according to Medical Press.

Kurbo, which was recently relaunched by WW, uses a traffic light system that is easy for even young children to understand. It essentially groups food into different categories, assigning each food group a color. Red is for food items that should be limited, for example, soda or sweets. The color amber is meant to represent foods that should be eaten regularly but in limited portions. Examples of this would be lean protein such as chicken. Finally, the color green is for foods that don’t have to be limited and can be eaten anytime, for example, fruits and vegetables.

The goal of the application is to help teach children about what foods they should limit and what they can eat in excess. It’s also intended to motivate them to consume far more green foods and less red foods. However, the concern is that children who begin using this app without parental supervision may develop unhealthy eating habits such as binge eating or eating disorders. The app also uses before-and-after images of children who have lost weight using the app. Children might look at the after images and realize they don’t look that way and develop unrealistic expectations for their weight loss.

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Kurbo has partnered with Humana Inc., an American health insurance company, so that those under the plan may also have the option to get a subscription for the app that includes mobile health coaching. Kurbo CEO and Founder Joanna Strober released a statement regarding this partnership, according to PR Newswire.

“Employers have begun to realize the impact of childhood obesity in several ways – both through increased medical bills and prescriptions for associated ailments and diseases such as diabetes – and indirectly, through parents’ lost productivity and engagement during the work day. Humana’s partnership with Kurbo Health is personalized to the unique needs of families battling obesity and is embedded in medical solutions for employers seeking long-term workforce health and well-being.”