Can a Mobile App Help Prevent Diabetes?

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Can a fitness tracker device and mobile app help lower the risk of diabetes. To find out, global health service company Cigna (NYSE:CI) is launching pilot initiatives with four of its US employer health plan clients representing 1,600 at-risk American workers.

The pilot programs will serve as a national study group for the efficacy of combining digital health trackers and health coaches to reduce the risk of diabetes and improve health of those with the disease. The initiative will use the popular BodyMedia body monitoring armband system to document participants’ calorie burn, exercise patterns and other physiological data on a round-the-clock basis. The initiative will provide Cigna health coaches with accurate individual activity data for analysis and behavioral modification recommendations, while also giving study participants insights they can use to potentially avert or control diabetes.

“Our theory for helping people reduce their risk of diabetes is to provide personalized, engaging and information-rich coaching programs, along with cool tools that deliver sustained motivation to improve health,” said Cigna Product Solutions Vice President, Eric Herbek. “And we’re about to put our theory to the test.”

“Our test mixes high-tech measurement and high-touch coaching so that individuals and their Cigna health coaches can follow each individual’s progress and motivate them to successfully change their unhealthy habits for sustained health improvement,” Herbek said. “Thus far we’ve seen consistently strong results after our health improvement programs are in place. We want to see an increased and accelerated improvement in our customer’s health risks by adding digital health tools and mobile apps to the mix.”

“Fitness trackers have proven their value in weight control, but this study illustrates their potential usefulness for other health purposes,” said BodyMedia CEO Christine Robins. “If being able to see your food and exercise choices will change your behavior – and we believe it can, based on our experience with consumers who use our armbands to support their weight loss efforts – healthcare practitioners may have a whole new way to deal with a variety of lifestyle-related health conditions.”

The Cigna initiative will use electronic devices and online tools as an engaging, interesting and simpler way to help people improve their health. The pilot programs will comprise a randomized control study of 1600 participants who are identified with pre-diabetes, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.