Saturday, November 2, 2013

APHA Codeathon drives innovation for health

Better health will soon be many mouse clicks closer thanks to the APHA Codeathon, where public health experts mixed with developers, designers and entrepreneurs Friday. The two-day event, held in conjunction with APHA’s 141st Annual Meeting and Exposition, is drawing the expertise and energy of participants to develop technology solutions to help public health agencies implement the Affordable Care Act.

Gains made by the Chicago Department of Public Health’s Healthy Chicago initiative are testament to this type of collaboration. According to Health Commissioner Bechara Choucair, the city has lowered the rate of adult smoking to 18 percent — the lowest rate measured in the last two decades; added 35 miles of protected bike lanes in the last year-and-a-half; and increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables in food deserts while adding healthy snacks in vending machines.

“We couldn’t have done it without a lot of engagement with a lot of partners,” Choucair said, including the city’s civic tech community. Partners such as the Smart Chicago Collaborative created a venue for developers to interact with the city through regular open government and “hack” nights, where city officials and civic leaders work together to find technological solutions to city challenges.

In the same vein, APHA’s Codeathon seeks to foment collaboration around increasing access to preventive health benefits under the ACA.

Kenyon Crowley, associate director of the Center for Health Information and Decision Systems at the University of Maryland, was one of many to offer possible solutions: a language translation app that converts information such as protocols for cancer screening into audio files; an online dashboard that reports the range of preventive benefits accessed by a patient and those still available; or an on-demand ACA navigator.

APHA’s inaugural Codeathon, sponsored by APHA, Esri and the California Healthcare Foundation, wraps up today.

(Above: Bechara Choucair, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, touts health improvements spawned by collaboration between public health officials and the city’s civic technology community. Photo by Michele Late)

— D.F.

No comments: