Surgeon General aims healthy app challenge at less tech-savvy populations

By Mary Mosquera, Senior Editor
U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin is challenging mobile health application developers to come up with technology tools that are not only creative but also easy and enjoyable for Americans to use in their everyday lives to encourage healthy behaviors.

The Surgeon General's Healthy Apps challenge, announced during her Tuesday morning keynote at the mHealth Summit, is designed to develop handy tools with tailored information that will encourage those "who may not be tech savvy and who wouldn't ordinarily want to get involved to become healthy and fit, and to make it easy and fun."  

The app will also be aimed at individuals who live in communities that are hard to reach or underserved by healthcare providers.

The app challenge, in conjunction with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, will be in three categories – physical activity, healthy eating and integrative health, which will incorporate mental and spiritual health, adequate sleep and decreased stress.  

Developers can enter the competition until Dec. 30, and the winners will be announced in late January 2012.

"We want to start using this as soon as we can," Benjamin said.  

The challenge follows the release during the summer of a national prevention strategy by the National Prevention and Health Promotion Council, established by health reform law and which Benjamin leads.

The prevention strategy calls for the nation to take a more holistic and integrated approach to community health. Sustained health depends on factors, including safe housing and transportation, the availability of quality and affordable food and clean air, Benjamin said.

Verizon's new platform

Highlighting a more advanced technology platform to engage consumers, John Stratton, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Verizon Wireless and Tuesday's other morning keynote speaker, described the digital chronic care management platform that the company is developing.

The platform is comprised of foundational capabilities for telemedicine with added functionality for mobility, broadband networks and highly scaled cloud-based data centers that will support tools that people with chronic diseases use to manage their daily lives. It should also reduce the company's healthcare costs.

Mobile devices can deliver personalized programs that assist with food choices, reminders to exercise, alerts in the event that biometric readings go beyond the desired range and to provide a dashboard with which to track progress.

"We're at the beginning stage of deploying these pilots inside Verizon to assist employees who are in managed care programs to enable them to have a high-quality video consultation with their care team," he said.

Verizon Wireless will launch its digital chronic care platform around programs for key chronic diseases in mid-2012 and expand it later in the year to health and wellness, readmission and medication adherence programs.

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