Provide a summary of the concept, how it works/could work, and why it could be successful
Dawsat is a technology-enabled services company that combines advanced technology, a
proven methodology and Arab culture to address the obesity and diabetes crisis facing the
Arab world. Dawsat is the first wellness program based on the Arab kitchen and provides
rich digital tools, in-person and online group support and an in-app social community that
generates a path to wellness and healthy living.
Dawsat aims to be the “go-to” resource for insurers, corporates and communities that seek
to improve the health and well-being of their beneficiaries, employees and community
members. Dawsat’s experience serving customers directly in a B2C model has paved the
way for its transition to working directly with corporate partners to deliver reliable results
via a B2B model and offering of digital-based services.
Food and healthy lifestyle are deeply cultural. Literal translation is insufficient to create
lifestyle change. Western nutrition tools are not able to address the obesity trend in the
emerging markets and culturally tailored solutions must be developed. Dawsat aims to be
a model for how to bring cutting-edge nutrition and wellness information into emerging
markets, using technology, community and culture.
With over 150 million Arabic-speaking Internet users, some of the highest rates of
smartphone usage in the world found in the MENA region, Dawsat’s digital offering seeks
to leverage increased digital access and awareness of the importance of improved health
to reverse the obesity epidemic and bring wellness to the MENA region.
Mas Watad, president and co-founder of Dawsat has had a lifelong obsession with making
the Arab kitchen healthier. She is a registered dietician and nutrition specialist. In 2003,
Mas realized the absence of a culture-specific nutritional guide to healthy eating and could
not just apply existing Western nutritional tools to her community. She could not imagine
getting her community to trade manakeesh or grape leaves for cottage cheese and melon.
In 2003, Watad designed a numerical system of classifying foods, and named it Dawsat.
The Dawsat methodology is a scientifically reliable resource on healthy living for the Arab
world and an easy-to-follow program based on a personalized points-quota system. Every
food is assigned a Dawsat points-value based on its ingredients and their cumulative
effect on the body. Taking into account traditional Arab culture related to food, lifestyle
Dawsat offers its solution via (1) a mobile App (free and paid subscription), (2) online
remote groups, (3) rich content and support in social media community (Facebook,
Instagram, Youtube); and (4) in-person groups.
To date, over 40,000 people have lost weight with the Dawsat method.
Dawsat is poised to be successful because the offering meets a current void in the market
and the results (average 11% weight loss and significant weight loss maintenance) speak
for themselves in impacting lives.
Explain briefly the specific problem(s) you are trying to solve, and how your solution impacts or will impact the region
The obesity and diabetes crisis in the largest public health crisis facing the Arab world.
With the highest rate of diabetes in the world and some of the highest rates of obesity in
the world, the Middle East is facing a dangerous trend that can be reversed through
improved lifestyle and weight loss.
Over 1/3 of the Saudi health budget goes to cover costs related to Diabetes. Health care
spending on diabetes across MENA reached $21.3Billion in 2017 and is expected to rise to
$35.5Billion by 2045. This figure will continue to rise unless proactive, culturally
appropriate tools are introduced.
Over 80% of the women in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have a BMI greater than 25 in the
region and over 30% of the population in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the
United Arab Emirates is considered obese. MENA governments have incentive to move
from curative to preventative treatment. Dawsat aims to solve this public health crisis by
providing the best mode for preventative treatment and turning the tide of obesity and its
related health problems. For each person that maintains 5% or more weight loss, there is a
50% decrease in risk of developing diabetes. Participants in the Dawsat offline and online
remote groups lose an average of 11% of their body weight and over 70% of Dawsat
program participants maintain a 5% or more weight loss 12-18 months after completing
their participation with Dawsat, thereby reducing the associated healthcare costs, social
costs and productivity losses.
By combining a big-data and AI-based platform with a proven nutrition method, Dawsat
can help insurers, health providers and corporate partners reverse this tide.
Geographical Scope: where is the innovation currently operating/where would it first be applied and where would it scale?
The innovation grows out of Palestine and is currently operating in Palestine, Jordan,
Saudi Arabia. Dawsat has customers in Egypt, Kuwait, the UAE and the United States as
Please state the current status of your initiative
Beneficiaries: Explain who would benefit from this solution and indicate whether you would be working with a local partner or organization to implement (if so,specify)
The endusers (end customers, patients or insurance benficiaries) would benefit as well as
local partners who can offer the Dawsat solution to their community members, employees
or beneficiaries via reduce healthcare costs. Our customers in the digital offering are 20%
men, 80% women. By paying $165 for the full 3-month Dawsat remote groups program, an
insurer can save $5,000/year per person from reduced healthcare costs related to Diabetes
alone. In each market, we have initiated conversations with key partners to support our goto
market with an outcomes based pilot, wherein Dawsat gets paid only for those
participants that lose 5% or more of their body weight. These pilots are supported by
Harvard Medical School researchers and senior leadership at the UCLA Center for Human
Describe the scalability and innovation elements of your initiative
After years of growing in-person groups, Dawsat has brought the “magic of the group
meeting” into its digital offering via the mobile App and remote online groups, which are
currently being moved directly into the App. The App is a flutter-based platform that has
the foundations for AI-based contextual, personalized and real-time support to help our
customer base better navigate their food environment and improve their health and
Please state your innovation sponsor (if applicable)
What are your key resources at this stage and what resources would you need to implement/scale?
Our key resources are: A proven methodology, hundreds of success stories, stable digital
App platform with CRM integration, that is poised to leverage the power of AI to support
improved wellness. Additional resources are the existing dialogues The resources needed
to implement at scale is funding for additional developers, marketing materials, and hiring
a local marketing person in Bahrain, Dubai or Riyadh to help close key partnerships.
What are your key challenges and risks at this stage?
Key challenges are educating our target audience that improved wellness and weight loss
is indeed possible within the habits of traditional culture and working with large
institutions (insurers, employers, government) to make the value proposition case for the
importance of preventative treatment to help reduce the prevalence of obesity and
diabetes in the region.
What are your goals and timeline?
Goal 1: Dec. 2019 – Close 2 Letters of Intent or launch 1 outcomes-based pilot with key
institutions (insurer, health clinic, corporate) in Saudi Arabia or the UAE.
Goal 2: Feb. 2019 – Have 1,000 paying App subscribers of premium paid version of the App
Goal 3: March. 2019 – 1st peer-reviewed Academic publication of results of Dawsat
Why should this innovation be selected?
We are a Harvard-connected team that has a team in Nablus and Haifa and is using
technology and culture to address the biggest public health crisis in the Arab world. We
are a women-led team with a big vision that is out to provide a model for how major public
health challenges in emerging markets can be tackled using the power technology,
community and culture.