Making Human Functioning the Pivot of Healthcare.
We build communities of alongsiders to mutually encourage each other in the implementation of lifelong healthy habits towards the optimal functioning of each member of the community.
We are developing digital health solutions to allows service users from around the world to track and collaborate on their functioning gains. All aspects of life are specifically addressed – body, mind, soul, and spirit.
Our dream is to anonymously aggregate best practices for the benefit of all.
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A Technological Need
(This company history was written by Dr Stef Snyman, founder and CEO of ICanFunction Health.)
ICanFunction Health (Pty) Ltd was registered in 2017 as a South African company. It is a spin-off of the international mICF project, aiming to develop a user-driven and user-owned mHealth solution to improve and record human functioning.
During my tenure as academic and chairperson of AfrIPEN, I developed an international collaborative who recognized the need for technology to operationalize the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF). Such technology will facilitate an interprofessional, person-centered, bio-psycho-social-spiritual approach to care. Apart from small grants from the Finnish and South African governments to develop a proof of concept, other efforts to obtain grant funding was not successful. I left the academia in 2017 and founded ICanFunction Health, aiming to raise private investment to develop the technology.
An open door...
I was looking for a use case to develop the first minimum viable product. And then the door opened in an unusual way.
I was sitting in the waiting room of my physician friend. I had difficulty breathing. I just couldn’t get air into my lungs. It was like a locomotive parked on my chest. I couldn’t swallow, fearing I was having a heart attack. After all the tests, he told me my heart is OK. He wrote me a script for high blood pressure and cholesterol tablets. He told me that I’m insulin-resistant and 20 kg overweight, but it is not yet diabetes. He suggested I go and see an endocrinologist, a dietician and a biokineticist; and to go back to my psychiatrist to change my depression medication, while adding something on the side for anxiety. This all came at a point where I also had to go for a neck operation due to a slipped disc, so just add the neurosurgeon and physiotherapist to the shopping list.
For more than 25 years, I’ve been a medical doctor working in occupational health. In this time, I’ve literally seen thousands of patients struggling with diabetes. It always bothered me that we couldn’t seem to turn the tide on diabetes. Patients came to the clinics for repeat prescriptions month after month, yet they did not get better, only worse. To be honest, I secretly thought it was their own fault. Like me, they weren’t adhering to the dietary guidelines, or weren’t using the medicines as prescribed.
That evening I phoned Dr Frank Müller, a close colleague and friend. Frank is a clinical pharmacologist and at one time also a Commonwealth consultant on medical plants. He also happens to be the formulator of the most successful herbal weight loss range in South Africa. I pleaded with Frank that there must be another way to deal with all my conditions: insulin-resistance, pre-diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, obesity, and burnout. Not to speak about me being an absent husband, father, and friend. My big desire was that somehow there will be a new me – a Stef that can play and laugh with them. That we can have fun together. I wanted to see my kids get married and wanted to hold my grandchildren in my arms.
Reversing the resistance
Frank provided me with a simple, physiological solution to reverse my pre-diabetes. As he explained, “I realized that as long as one focuses on diabetes and/or obesity, one will never cure it. Both diabetes and obesity are symptoms, not diseases. Underlying both is a condition called ‘insulin resistance’. Only once that condition is reversed, will diabetes and obesity disappear. This is the exact opposite of the current conventional approach.”
Frank challenged me further, “If current conventional treatments of type 2 diabetes are so good, why are the outcomes so bad? Clearly the biomedical approach to diabetes is not working. Diabetes is a disease that affects all of life. As such, a pill cannot be the best solution. 1 in 10 adults have diabetes right now. 1 in 3 adults will have diabetes by 2050 if the trend continues. Already, 1 in 3 people globally suffer from one or more sugar-induced health problems. 7 out of the top 10 causes of death globally can directly be linked to sugar intake.”
At first, I thought Frank was wrong, since his advice was the opposite of everything I had been taught at medical school. But once I grasped what he was saying, I couldn’t believe that I had been treating diabetes in any other way.
So, I immediately set to work to change my own life – and the lives of my diabetic patients – by following a ketogenic diet and doing intermittent fasting. I also followed other tips to reverse my conditions, such as sitting at a table to eat, praying for my food, making time to meditate, doing light exercises, sleeping for 7 hours per night, and by having more fun.
The results blew me away. Today, I’m off all prescription medication and healthier than 20 years ago. One after the other, my patients reduced their medication, or even reversed their diabetes completely. The advice worked for everybody.
The launch of FIRE diabetes
Reversing someone’s diabetes was very satisfying, but labor intensive. We needed to find another way to present this method. After nearly a year of researching possibilities, Frank and I decided to launch an online course to help people reverse insulin resistance, and in the process also record and visualize human functioning. I found our use case.
In 2020 we received our first investment and outlined our proof of concept, namely, to help persons suffering from type 2 diabetes to be free from diseases, drugs and despair. We developed an online course to reverse insulin resistance (something we call it a “journey”), facilitated by an interprofessional team. Our current offering is an 8-week long online sprint through body, mind, soul, community, and spirit. We called it FIRE Diabetes. F.I.R.E. is the abbreviation for Fix Insulin Resistance Easily.
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic. We realized that our solution could save many lives, since persons suffering from diabetes and obesity are those dying from COVID. We went into overdrive and in collaboration with the Christian Healthcare Fellowship, launched our first course in June 2020 to mostly Christian health professionals working on the frontlines fighting the pandemic.
Subsequently we’ve conducted 8 journeys over the first year with nearly 200 participants. After completing a journey, alumni become part of a vibrant ongoing online community of alongsiders supporting each other to sustain their FIRE lifestyle.
Since June 2020, a significant number of participants with type 2 diabetes reversed their condition before the end of the 8-week journey. We are awaiting a scientific report to show us how many achieved it a year later. Almost all were able to reduce prescription drugs, and more than three-quarters were able to stop their diabetic medication (except Metformin). Most were able to reach their functioning goals set out at the beginning of their journeys. Average weight loss during the 8-week period was 4 kg., and a year later 7kg. This in comparison with the weight loss industry average of 2½-6kg over a year or longer. In addition, participants reported on the positive mental, physical, and spiritual impact the program had on them and their families.
In January 2021 we launched our first mobile App, using cutting edge Glimpse user interface technology. Currently, this test version is only available for Android phones.
We mostly used other inexpensive platforms to conduct our proof of concept. This includes WhatsApp, Facebook, Zoom, MailChimp, Teachable and Google Forms. There is no integration, which makes it impossible to scale this game-changing initiative.
We are now seeking our second round of investment funding to enable us to scale the current offering so we can reach reach 20 million people in the next 5 years with our holistic bio-psycho-social-spiritual approach to Fix Insulin Resistance Easily (F.I.R.E).
Dr Stef Snyman
Dr Stefanus Snyman is a medical doctor and founder of ICanFunction Health.
Hannes van Zyl
Hannes van Zyl lectured in film at UNISA and was a book publishing CEO at Naspers.
Eduard Malan is a senior executive at Humanstate, a private technology group where he serves as Chief Business Officer.
Founder & Chief Executive Officer
Dr Stef Snyman
Dr Stef Snyman (M.B, Ch.B; M.Phil. (Health Sciences Education) (cum laude); Diploma in Occupational Medicine)
Chief Medical Officer
Dr Frank Müller
Dr Frank Müller (M.B, Ch.B; M.Med.Sc. (Pharmacology) (cum laude))
Chief Technology Officer
Jan Pool (M.Sc.Eng. (Electronic))
Head of Health Education and Compassionate Support
Prof Gerda Reitsma
Prof Gerda Reitsma (Ph.D. (Teaching and Learning); Postgraduate Certificate in Education; M.Sc. Home Economics (with nutrition education); B.Sc. Hons.; B.Sc. Home Economics; Postgraduate Diploma in Health Professions Education and Leadership)
Business & Data Analyst
Flip du Plessis
Flip du Plessis (B. Eng. (Civil); Diploma in Datametrics; MBA))
Helena Snyman (B. Consumer Science (Food)); Legal Secretary Certificate)
FIRE Diabetes Team
Dr Stef Snyman
Dr Stef Snyman is an Occupational Medicine Practitioner and Health Professions Educationist with a passion to help reverse insulin-resistance and the risk it poses to employee health, functioning and productivity. He works in an interdisciplinary team to solve complex problems related to insulin-resistance and other non-communicable diseases.At ICanFunction Health, Stef heads up an international team developing cutting edge technology to enable a person to direct, own and share information related to their functioning and context. This application will facilitate a person-centred, bio-psycho-social-spiritual approach to the provision of health and social services. It will act as a catalyst for shared decision-making, common goal setting and the continuity of care. Stef is married to Helena, and they have two kids, Christiaan (11) and Isobel (9).
Dr Frank Müller
Dr Frank Muller (or Doc Frank as he is popularly known) is a board-certified medical doctor and pharmacologist. Despite his academic background and training, he has spent the past quarter century helping thousands of people live healthier lives, free from medication, by using simple, natural solutions anyone can implement at home.
In 2002, Doc Frank was listed in “2000 Outstanding Intellectuals of the 21st Century” as well as “Who’s Who in the World“. He was a regular contributor to the SA Journal of Natural Medicine (while it was still in print) and other magazines and newspapers. He has been a consultant to the British Commonwealth and a guest lecturer in Community Health at the University of Stellenbosch. He is the founder and CEO of Integrow Health (Pty) Ltd, an online wellness company.
Frank is married to Ami, and at the last count they had 6 children, 4 boys and 2 girls.
Chef Pete Goffe-Wood, renowned TV celebrity, is the chef-patron at the Viande Restaurant at the newly-renovated Grande Roche Hotel (Paarl) – and of FIRE Diabetes in 40 Days!
Pete trained at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Umhlanga Rocks, Kwazulu-Natal. He lived and worked at some of the top restaurants in London for nine years. Pete returned to South Africa in 1999 and assisted in opening the restaurant at La Couronne Hotel and Winery in Franschhoek (now Mont Rochelle). Has worked in Namibia, Bangkok, Hanoi, Sydney and Oman. He launched the Kitchen Cowboys cooking workshops in 2003 in Cape Town.
Pete is author of three cookbooks, A Life Digested, Kitchen Cowboys, and Blue Restaurant. He was a judge on MasterChef South Africa for four seasons and currently judge on Ultimate Braai Master (season 6).
Pete is married to Elize.
Dr Phumzile Mmope
Dr George Roux
Dr George Roux is a psychologist and pastoral therapist with a passion to care for the carers. He specialises in the management of burnout, anxiety and depression. George is a seasoned marriage counsellor.
When he is not busy in his private practice, he facilitates groups of pastors, school masters or healthcare workers to build resilience, to cope and to live full-filled lives.
George lives life to its fullest. He often goes fishing and camping. His is married for 38 years to his co-adventurer on the journey, Talma. They have 3 adult children.
Prof Gerda Reitsma
Prof Gerda Reitsma is a Health Professions Educator and Higher Education specialist. She was a full-time lecturer for over 30 years at the NWU, teaching undergraduate and post-graduate students. She also established the Centre for Health Professions Education in the Faculty of Health Sciences. She has a background in nutrition and food product development, and later developed mentorship programmes for lecturers in higher education. Gerda herself has completed the FIRE journey and it is her passion to help as many people as possible to get their health back.
She is currently an independent higher and health education consultant and has joined the FIRE team to add her expertise and support in developing and presenting the FIRE programme.
Gerda has two adult children, a daughter who is in her final year of food photography and chef training, and a son who is married to the best daughter-in-law a mother can wish for. They are both computer engineers and work as software developers – mom’s go-to for IT help.