Weight Watchers just released an app for children and-no surprise-people are upset
In case you missed it, last fall Weight Watchers rebranded itself as WW, pledging to focus more on wellness than on shedding pounds. And in one of its recent moves, WW launched Kurbo, a controversial app designed to help kids and teens ages 8 to 17 develop healthy eating habits and get active.
The app uses a traffic light color system to try and make it easier for kids to choose healthier foods, a system the company says has been shown to be a safe and effective strategy for dropping pounds. (For example, green foods can be eaten whenever, yellow foods should be portioned, and red foods should make you stop and consider.)
But since the app's release, the reception has been mixed. While the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 5 children and adolescents in the U.S. are obese, putting those children at risk for poor health, it's debatable whether programs like these help or hurt their target audience. (WW was also criticized last year when it announced it would offer its program for free to teenagers ages 13 to 17.)
Dr. Brooke Sweeney, an adolescent-weight-management specialist at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City told TIME that it's helpful to intervene at a young age since it's "easier to maintain weight or slow down how fast they're gaining weight versus losing." But in the past, the American Academy of Pediatrics has also advised families to avoid talking about weight with children and instead to promote a healthy lifestyle.
There's no question that America has a growing child obesity problem.
Researchers at Duke University say 40 percent of 16 to 19-year-olds are obese. And even more surprising -- 26 percent of 2 to 5-year-olds are overweight and more than 15 percent are obese.
Obviously this is a potentially lucrative market for Weight Watchers.