By 2030, the world population of obese children and adolescents is predicted to grow by 60 percent to 254 million. With this global health challenge in mind, Sveatoslav Vizitiu and Dumitru Petreus, two software developers in Romania, believe mobile technology can help address this problem. Having struggled with health issues related to excess weight, the two friends started doing research. They found that if one parent is obese, there is a 30-40 percent chance their children will be as well. These odds can rise to 80 percent in cases where both parents are overweight. Sveatoslav and Dumitru quickly realised that a solution that works for the whole family would bring the biggest benefits. Their health application, Wello, teaches parents and children about nutrition and healthy habits through augmented intelligence (AI) powered solutions. Since founding the company in 2018, the two have pitched their idea to different stakeholders on all continents. That same year, the European Commission recognised the potential of the app and allocated a grant of one million euros to the implementation of their project.
Wello is all about adopting a holistic approach to tackle obesity-related health challenges. It integrates both online and offline components. The app provides online games and interactive content which allows family to engage in social challenges related to a healthier lifestyle, stimulates the physical activity of children, provides personalised nutrition plans, and helps kids learn about food and nutrition in a fun way. Through friendly competition, Wello integrates an incentive mechanism where parents can set up real-world rewards, such as cinema tickets, when they reach certain goals individually or as a family. The app also provides parents with access to an in-house nutritional information platform – “Wellopedia” – with quizzes, recipes, and a map to find restaurants that comply with their nutrition plans.
According to Sveatoslav, just downloading the app shows that Wello users already have a certain degree of awareness of the health challenges brought by obesity. It’s clear to him that in order to effectively tackle this health issue, it is equally important to reach those who lack important information and understanding of the problem. To address this, Wello complements its mobile solutions with online school programmes in Romania and in-person summer camps.
Today, the company employs eight full-time staff and works with a large network of professionals from nutritionists and psychologists to physical trainers to help its mission. The beta version of the Wello app was launched in 2019 on both Google Play and Apple’s App Store. Although Wello is currently only available in Romania, it already has more than 10,000 users. One of the most challenging aspects Wello overcame to reach this milestone is the responsible and secure collection of children’s data and use of wearables.
Looking back, Sveatoslav’s proudest achievement is developing the Wello app from scratch and in just two years having it turn it into a project that is well recognised in Romania. Wello is bringing awareness to the use of mobile apps in health and has been awarded multiple prizes, including the GoGlobal Challenge from European Institute for Innovation and Technology (eit) and the Best Social Impact Start-up prize, from the Central European Start-up Awards. Sveatoslav’s dream is for Wello to become a global reference point when it comes to solutions promoting healthier lifestyles. Looking forward, Wello would like to expand its B2B component while also providing its mHealth solutions to governments to help with prevention efforts. The company is currently planning to expand in the United Kingdom and Switzerland, two countries with very different profiles when it comes to childhood obesity. The final version of the Wello app is on track to be released this summer.
The development and increased use of mHealth applications like Wello has the potential to fundamentally transform healthcare and wellness services. Health apps can empower users to take active control of their health and they can support healthcare professionals in determining more efficient prevention and treatment. We are proud to have Wello as a member that actively contributes to innovation in the mHealth sector.
 Tim Lobstein and Hannah Brinsden, Global Atlas on Childhood Obesity, World Obesity Federation, available at https://www.worldobesity.org/nlsegmentation/global-atlas-on-childhood-obesity, October 2019