Playorities software connects kids to the indoor and outdoor worlds.
Say your kid is overweight—and nearly 18 percent of American children age 6-11 are, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What if your pediatrician could prescribe a park? And your kid got sucked into a computer game that made him or her want to score points by being more physically active? And insurance would pay for it? Think that might help?
Playorities founder Allison Diego thinks it will. Her company is one of 11 Gig Tank startups rushing toward Demo Day on July 29, when their two months of work will be unveiled.
“Playorities is developing a software solution to fight childhood obesity,” says Diego. “We are engaging pediatricians, the Parks and Rec community, and parents and kids to help them stay focused on getting active at least 45 minutes a day.”
Playorities’ road to Gig Tank started in Miami, where Diego was the assistant director of Miami-Dade County Parks and Rec until she retired recently. Now she wants to go national with what she learned there about getting kids to exercise and lose weight. An after-school program called “Fit To Play” successfully incentivized kids to exercise. Research by the University of Miami proved that the program was effective.
“It takes a village to raise a child? It’s going to take a park system to keep your child healthy,” Diego says. “Over the course of four years, we started seeing our data and numbers change. A lot of the kids that were overweight or obese were actually losing weight. The healthy kids that were already active and already in our parks were maintaining weight.”
Research also suggested that more could be accomplished by engaging pediatricians, so Diego created a referral system that allowed doctors to “prescribe” an after-school exercise program and let parents get reimbursed by an insurance company, just like with the Silver Sneakers senior fitness programs or Weight Watchers.
That program is the seed for Playorities, which aims to turn municipal parks into fitness hubs for children between the ages of 9 and 11. Parks already serve as de facto community health departments, she says, especially for low-income families.
“They’re the ones that aren’t paying for gym memberships,” she says, “They’re not the ones that are able to go to the doctor on a regular basis. And they don’t have the access to knowledge, to community services.”
Playorities is enabled by technology, but it’s really built around understanding the shared interests of parents, pediatricians, parks departments and insurance companies in making kids healthier. What Diego perceived in Miami was that all those parties were interested in the outcome but couldn’t figure out how to connect and collaborate. She wants Playorities to be the glue without reinventing anything that already exists.
Parks and Rec departments will overlay Playorities’ system on top of their existing activity programs, with the addition of biometric pre- and post-testing and close tracking of kids to determine how many minutes a day they’re active. A gamified engagement system will provide rewards for kids, but that type of system already exists, so Playorities is only developing its own avatar program that connects children to the games.
Pediatricians with overweight patients can access an app to find the right parks program and write a referral—Diego calls it a “park-script”—that will connect the child and family to a local park system that’s running an after-school exercise program and make the fee reimbursable through insurance. That’s essential to reach lower-income families who may not be able to pay even modest parks program fees.
“And we have proven it works” in Miami, Diego says, “if you give children a goal to attain and then you give them a benefit, which in their case is rewards. It’s being champion of their park. It’s the trophy, the free iPad or iPhone. So there’s lots of opportunities for them as winners.”
The framework for parks and rec departments is complete, providing an evidence-based program model.
“We just piloted the pediatrician piece in Miami, so we really want to focus in Gig Tank on launching that piece,” she says. “We think that’s the biggest revenue model because we’re adding engagement with the pediatricians and the parents. At Gig Tank we’re really hoping to fine-tune our business model and our revenue sources to be sure we can do this and make it a profitable company. We have a lot of the components ready that we want to marry, we want to finalize, so we can launch a demo. I’d like to launch a pilot in Chattanooga.”
By 2040, half the population is predicted to be overweight or obese, Diego notes.
“The financial impact that’s having on our health care system is 450 billion dollars,” she says. “Everybody that sits in that bleacher has every demographic and every income level rooting for the same team. And in this case it’s childhood obesity prevention.”