WW’s new weight loss app aimed at young people divides opinion

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  • A new weight loss app by the US WW (formerly Weight Watchers) aimed at young people has divided opinion for users.

    Earlier this week, the companies US counterpart launched an app called Kurbo, and it has been described as a way to ‘help kids and teens reach a healthier weight and build healthy habits’.

    The app’s launch was announced on WW’s Twitter, alongside a promo video featuring a 12-year-old girl speaking about her experience using it.

    The app costs  $69 (£52) per month, and is currently only available to US customers. However, WW have explained that, ‘ we plan to expand globally in the future’. The monthly charge also provides children with a personal coach, who they can video chat with each week.

    Whilst using the app, children are encouraged to follow a ‘traffic light’ system, which was approved by Stanford University. The app manages intake of unhealthy foods.

    But the public appears to be divided over the app, with some been accused of encouraging unhealthy eating habits in children and young people.

    Some have pointedly criticised the ‘success stories’ section, where children as young as ten are sharing how much weight they’ve lost since joining.

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    One user argued: ‘No matter how you try to frame this, you’re teaching disordered eating habits. No child needs this.’ While another said: ‘what is this?? Plant the seeds of an unhealthy relationship w/ food at an early age’.

    A change.org petition has even been set up in response to Kurbo, which has so far generated 1,900 signatures from people against the app.

    However, WW have defended the app, explaining that it’s simply a chance to tackle the very prevalent problem of childhood obesity.

    In response to the criticisms, Gary Foster PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at Weight Watchers has said: ‘At WW, we have decades of expertise in scaling science-backed behavior change programs, uniquely positioning us to be a part of the solution to address the prevalent public health problem of childhood obesity.”

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    ‘Alongside a distinguished group of leaders in pediatric health and nutrition, we’ve carefully developed this platform to be holistic, rewarding and inspirational so kids, teens and families get the tools and guidance they need to manage their environment and build and sustain healthy habits.’

    Mindy Grossman, President and CEO at WW, also said: “To change the health trajectory of the world, we have a tremendous opportunity, but also a responsibility, to help kids, teens and families,

    “With Kurbo’s proven platform, we can be a trusted and powerful partner for families, as part of our mission to inspire healthy habits for real life, for everyone.”

    Joanna Strober, co-founder of Kurbo, also explained that she can personally attest to the effectiveness of a ‘solution’ to childhood obesity like the app.

    She said, ‘According to recent reports from the World Health Organization, childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. This is a global public health crisis that needs to be addressed at scale. As a mom whose son struggled with his weight at a young age, I can personally attest to the importance and significance of having a solution like Kurbo by WW, which is inherently designed to be simple, fun and effective.’

    What do you think of Kurbo? Is it a good idea, or promoting unhealthy behaviours? Let us know your thoughts.