By April Sciacchitano (@aprilcs)
Can an app a day keep the doctor away? Maybe. Technology has given us new ways to manage our health, and health-focused organizations are catching on.
In April 2012, Challenge.gov, managed by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), funded three apps co-developed by health professionals and developers to solve the highest priority health problems in the US. The criteria for selection, like user appeal, innovation and broad application, are areas where other health technologies have already proven themselves.
Here are a few apps and devices that are healthy additions to our tech diets, and how they might represent the missing part of your healthy lifestyle:
Nike + - Accountability
Working out with a friend is more successful than a solo commitment, and Nike+ recreates this social accountability. The June 22 revamp of the app does more than map your runs – it allows you to post easily to Facebook and to compete against friends so you’re accountable without having to meet at the gym. It’s important to be healthy socially because weight is a social construct: Research shows your friends’ weight affects your weight. Nike+ adds that accountability to your workout – and perhaps helps you connect with friends to cheer you on.
My Fitness Pal – Discipline
A 2008 Kaiser Permanente study showed that keeping a daily food diary helped overweight people lose twice as many pounds as those who didn’t record their meals. This kind of recoding discipline can make a difference, and apps like My Fitness Pal mean there are no excuses. Mobile is a huge opportunity to improve health because the information and the note-taking are always with you. While it’s already a powerful tool, there’s even more potential for discerning trends out of data entered.
Up by Jawbone – Consciousness
Jawbone’s Up is on hiatus until they work out some bugs, but the technology is interesting. You wear the wrist band 24/7, and it records data on how much you move, how well you sleep and allows you to create a photo diary of your meals. If you sit still for too long, it alerts you to get moving. Not everyone wants this much information, but for many it’s exactly the kind of seamless data collection they’ve been looking for to be health and body conscious.
How can organizations make use of this new suite of digital tools? It’s hard to say in a space primed for innovation. These apps and tools are first generation in the health space, and they are just the beginning.