UCSF researchers tap prediabetes app-based coaching startup Yes Health for user data

By Aditi Pai

UCSF Diabetes Center has announced a partnership with mobile-enabled health coaching company Yes Health to use the company's app user data for research.

Yes Health offers a 16-week, app-based program for people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, that includes one-on-one coaching, nutrition and fitness tracking, as well as personalized health advice. The program costs $9.75 for the first four months, and $15 per month to continue.

As a part of the partnership, Yes Health plans to add opt-in tools that allow users to share their de-identified behavioral data, including sleep, diet, and exercise information, with UCSF researchers who are studying type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.

Yes Health CEO and Founder Alex Petrov told MobiHealthNews that he thinks the company’s user base will be very willing to share their data if it leads to better therapies in the future.

“What we have found is it really is an emotional journey for people who have been diagnosed with prediabetes,” Petroc said. “When we developed our product, we did a lot of research and we were invited into people’s homes. They were telling us their story and their experience before Yes Health and their experience after Yes Health and it was very emotional…They know that if they are able to help their family members in the future to prevent getting prediabetes, or diabetes altogether, they are all in.”

Petrov added that users will eventually be able to opt in to share DNA data as well, by using kits mailed out by UCSF. Researchers at the university will then be able to use that data to tailor therapies. 

“You will able say, hopefully in the future, a person with particular genome will best respond to these particular lifestyle changes based on that genome,” Petrov said. “And that’s something that we are so excited about.”

In exchange for the data, UCSF will provide Yes Health with access to the newest research and health education coming out of the university so that the app and coaches can provide users with up to date health education and advice. UCSF will also list the Yes Health program among other resources on its prediabetes education website.

“By working with Yes Health, we will be able to collect and analyze large amounts of behavioral data from people with prediabetes,” Director of the UCSF Diabetes Center Matthias Hebrok said in a statement. “In addition to providing us with rich insights regarding how behavioral and environmental factors impact those with prediabetes, these data can be coupled with cellular, genetic, and other biological data to create an unparalleled resource for scientific discovery. Additionally, this alliance will ultimately facilitate our ability to identify cohorts that can participate in clinical trials focused on the relationship between behavioral and biological aspects of diabetes risk, helping us develop highly individualized prevention and treatment programs.”

Earlier this year, a UCLA study found that 46 percent of all adults in the California, which is 13 million people, are estimated to have prediabetes or undiagnosed diabetes.