Friday, October 18, 2013

The password is public health

Ever wondered what would happen if a bunch of public health nerds and computer geeks spent two intense days together furiously developing ideas and writing code to make the nation a healthier, happier place? Well, we've wondered the same thing. 

That's why APHA is calling on programmers, developers, designers as well as public health professionals, advocates and aficionados to join a marathon session of brainstorming and coding for better health. APHA for ACA: A Codeathon to Help Implement the Affordable Care Act is a free, two-day event to bring together programming and public health experts with a goal of developing new apps, platforms and innovations that public health organizations can use to implement the ACA in their communities. The codeathon, which is sponsored by Esri and the California HealthCare Foundation, will begin on Friday, Nov. 1, at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and conclude on Saturday, Nov. 2, when a panel of judges will award prizes to the best, most innovative solutions.

To kick off the codeathon, organizers will offer an overview of the ACA and the challenges to implementation, after which participants can begin networking, sharing ideas and forming teams. Ideas can run the gamut, from developing an app to connect people with local tobacco cessation services to creating a program to increase the uptake of critical preventive health services. It really is a "sky's the limit" kind of event — if your idea will help bring the benefits of the ACA to those most in need, we wanna hear about it. In fact, organizers hope the codeathon will result in ideas and tools that can eventually be brought to market. The codeathon is free and open to all, though registration is required.

After you've invented the next best app for health reform, head over to the new Social Media Lab in the convention center's Southwest Lobby (but first register for the Annual Meeting and then sign up for a time slot here). This year, APHA is teaming up with the folks from — a leader in the social media world — to offer personalized sessions on how to use social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook to reach your public health goals. Participants will get a one-on-one session with social media experts from or APHA and are encouraged to come to their appointments with some specific questions and ideas in mind. And feel free to stop by the Social Media Lab, which will be open to Annual Meeting registrants on Monday and Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., to pick up information, inquire about open time slots and join the social media discussion.

APHA not only talks the technology talk, it walks the walk. For the second year, you can download the free APHA Annual Meeting mobile app to your smartphone or tablet. The app lets users search the online meeting program, access session abstracts, peruse the Public Health Expo map, connect with fellow meeting attendees, sync up with APHA's personal scheduler and much more. To download the app, which you can find by searching for "APHA Meeting" in your app store, you must use the same email address you used to register for the Annual Meeting. (Annual Meeting registration is required to use the app.)

Finally, to meet other public health folks as excited about technology and social media as you are, RSVP for Sunday's Social Media Meetup hosted by APHA's Social Media Team.

How will you be using social media at the Boston meeting? Let us know in the comments below!

— K.K.

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