How Boston-based Startups Are Tackling Loneliness, Food Insecurity, and Addiction

March 10, 2020
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MassDigitalHealth.org Editors


While the COVID-19 outbreak is the leading health issue today, the world is also facing ongoing challenges like loneliness, food insecurity, and addiction that need to be addressed. Get to know three Massachusetts-based digital health startups that are tackling the massive societal problems that will still be here long after we contain COVID-19. 

 

Nesterly - Providing housing options and reducing loneliness through intergenerational connections

As older adults transition to ‘empty nesters’, adapting to life without children can be rough. These parents often experience extreme loneliness and face increasing social isolation as they age. At the same time, young adults living on their own for the first time regularly struggle to find affordable housing near employment opportunities.

This unique mix of generational challenges inspired Marcus and Rachel Goor to develop Nesterly, a new Boston-based online service that matches baby boomer homeowners with young millennials in need of housing. According to a recent article, the founders believe their app is successful because millennials are willing to look for cheaper rent in exchange for doing household chores, and boomers are able to form friendships with younger individuals.

 

EatWell Meal Kits - providing healthy meal options and reducing food insecurity

In 2018, over 37 million Americans faced food insecurity, a condition where you do not have access to enough food for an active and healthy life. Dan Wexler founded the non-profit startup EatWell MealKits in 2017 with the goal of making healthy food options affordable and easily available to people who do not have access to healthy food.

The Brookline-based startup’s solution to food insecurity is a simple meal kit that contains a 30-minute, one-pot recipe and all the ingredients to cook a healthy dinner for a family of four. How do they differ from all the other meal kit delivery services? For starters, their meals average just $3 per serving and are distributed through local community centers like the YMCA.

EatWell’s long term vision includes partnering with insurance companies as part of the growing “Food as Medicine” movement.

“[W]e’re hoping to take the next steps in the ‘Food is Medicine’ movement, where providers and insurers prescribe meal kits to folks, because when they go to the doctor, what they really need is to be eating healthier, but they don’t necessarily have the ability - whether because of access or affordability - to get healthy, fresh food,” said Wexler in a recent interview with PublicHealthPost.

 

DynamiCare Health: An app to tackle the opioid epidemic, by supporting patients and caregivers

Maintaining sobriety is a challenge for anyone overcoming the scourge of addiction. To help that daily struggle, the Boston-based DynamiCare Health developed a mobile app that makes it easier for those in recovery to hold themselves accountable on their journey to a clean life.

Users of the DynamicCare app are randomly required to test their breath and saliva remotely in order to show they are sober. The app requires users to take the tests on camera before sending the results to a staffer for confirmation. The app also helps users find recovery groups in their area and records their participation.

When tasks are completed, users of the app receive financial rewards on a debit card that can be used like any other card, except for places where alcohol is sold. So far, insurance companies have been receptive to the company’s pitch.

“We found that…payers like health insurance companies are fairly willing to try this out because addiction, in addition to massive human suffering that it causes, is also a huge economic burden to any health insurance plan or company,” said DynamicCare Health founder Eric Gastfriend in an interview with Xconomy.