Miguel Johns went from coaching college athletes to developing a wellness app that he hopes will benefit millions of Americans.
Called KingFit, it’s designed to be used by health and fitness professionals and the people they work with, with a special emphasis on diabetes educators. The idea is that a hospital that employs a diabetes educator will subscribe to the app, which the educator and diabetes patients can then use.
But it could also be used by personal trainers and their clients at an organization such as the YMCA, or by a workplace or insurance company. And individuals will be able to use some of it on their own for free.
“It’s an all-around app for anybody,” he said. “We want to be the health and wellness brand.”
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Johns said he grew up in Newton and earned a football scholarship to Indiana State University, where he played wide receiver. After getting his degree in exercise science, he worked as a strength coach for the school’s athletic department and also as a personal trainer.
Johns started an online fitness coaching service before moving back to Wichita last summer, mainly using e-mail to send clients workout routines, nutrition plans and other information. He said watching a documentary called “Escape Fire” – about the shortcomings of the American health care system – inspired him to think bigger.
He decided to focus on helping people who have, or are at risk of developing, a chronic illness manage or prevent that illness from developing. Someday, Johns hopes physicians will be able to write prescriptions for the app, allowing it to be covered by insurance.
Johns said he has worked with numerous people to develop his business plan and app, which he plans to unveil Sept. 8 and launch in January. He said he used his online coaching clients to evaluate the content that will appear on the app and thinks it does a better job of keeping clients motivated than programs such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig.
“Really, engagement was our key factor,” he said. “How do we give them programs they enjoy that are different? If we can keep people engaged, we’re going to get results.”
The app consists of four pages. The first is a “community page” where users can connect with their health care provider or fitness professional and other users, he said. The second is a “data page” that can be connected to FitBits and other devices and also keep information such as blood sugar levels.
The third page “delivers the tools” – an exercise program, meal plan and grocery shopping lists individualized for each user. The third and fourth pages contain some programs users can subscribe to, but otherwise the app is free to end users, Johns said.
Johns said the scope of diabetes in this country is what convinced him to make that his primary focus. According to the American Diabetes Association, about 29 million Americans, or 9.3 percent of the population, have the disease – 21 million of them undiagnosed – and another 86 million have prediabetes, a figure that is rising quickly.
There are about 60,000 diabetes educators in the country working for hospitals and other organizations, he said.
“That’s where we can help out most and sell our platform,” he said.
The company has three full-time and three part-time employees. Development of the app was outsourced to two local firms, Clutch Studio and Air Capital Media.
Johns spoke at a 1 Million Cups meeting in March and also spoke at a health care innovation summit in June, which helped attract several investors, rent-free office space and what he calls “an amazing group of mentors and advisers.”