Making it Personal: A New Approach to Diabetes Prevention

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Author Julia Hu is the CEO of our portfolio company Lark Health.

In January, I shared the exciting news that Lark and 23andMe have teamed up to do chronic disease prevention in an entirely new way: For the first time, 23andMe customers are able to take action on their genetic testing results with Lark’s personalized, AI-based behavior change technology.

Our goal with this collaboration was to make it easy for 23andMe users to take steps to manage their health based on the genetic test results they receive. By giving customers the opportunity to integrate 23andMe data into Lark’s clinically validated diabetes prevention program (DPP), we can make our lifestyle coaching even more precise.

This past weekend at SXSW, I was on a panel with country music star and diabetes advocate Tim McGraw and Tracey Brown, President of the American Diabetes Association, to help announce another exciting step forward: 23andMe announced a new health predisposition report that will tell customers whether their genetics place them at typical or increased likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. Now, customers whose 23andMe report indicates they have an increased likelihood of developing the condition have seamless access to Lark, where they will be able to take a screening to find out if they have pre-diabetes and enroll in our CDC-Recognized Diabetes Prevention Program, fully-covered under their insurance plan or out of pocket. 23andMe customers can do all of this right from their mobile phone.

We’re excited about this development. Consumer genetic tests, like 23andMe, can serve as indicators, alerting people that they may have a predisposition for a certain disease or certain health characteristics. But to fully realize the potential of this health innovation, we need to arm users with the tools they need to use their results to take control of their health.

For me, this function of consumer genetic testing — serving as an alert to help consumers understand they may be at risk for a health challenge — is personal. I grew up dealing with a chronic disease that went undiagnosed for way too long. But through trial and error, and countless visits to pediatricians’ offices, my dad and I finally found out what was causing my symptoms and  eventually found the compassionate, personalized care that helped me manage them. I feel strongly about helping more people shorten their journey to finding the right care, whether they have diabetes today or at risk of developing it.

We’re hopeful that this new report from 23andMe can help more people understand if their genetics place them at increased likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes and help them find the right care to prevent its onset. The last 10 years of the ground-breaking national Diabetes Prevention Program have seen fewer than 1 million individuals screened for pre-diabetes. Giving 4.5 million 23andMe customers the opportunity to be screened in the next few weeks is the kind of step-function change we need to make a real dent in this problem.

By giving millions of 23andMe customers access to this information and encouraging them to get screened further, we hope to bring innovative, precision diabetes prevention to more people. As one of the few Fully CDC-Recognized DPPs and the 2nd largest in the country, this is an exciting time here at Lark - and to be in healthcare. We’re proud to collaborate with 23andMe to continue moving the industry in the direction of a more action-oriented, compassionate experience for patients everywhere.