Monday, November 2, 2015

Addressing life expectancy at APHA’s codeathon

From apps that count steps to devices that monitor blood sugar, electronic gadgets have become an everyday part of health for many people.

During the APHA Public Health Codeathon in Chicago this weekend, teams of public health professionals worked with technology builders to create tools that can help people have lives that are not only healthier, but also longer.

Held in conjunction with APHA’s 143rd Annual Meeting and Exposition, the two-and-a-half day codeathon challenged teams to create tools centered around the theme of “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Addressing Life Expectancy.”

Four teams rose to the challenge, creating apps and programs that can help people estimate how long they will live, choose healthier food, manage their diabetes and make other behavioral health decisions.

The winning app, Text4Health, was designed to help people understand risky lifestyle choices and get insights on how to make changes. Users of the app would be able to enter personal data to see how long they would live based on their lifestyle and other factors, then get tips on how to improve their health.

“We all know that making change at the behavioral level is very difficult,” said Junaed Siddiqui, a member of the winning team, during the team’s presentation to judges. “People who want to make behavior changes don’t always have access to the resources that they need, and they don’t know how to go about finding out more.”

The first-place app was created by a team called Terps Care, with members hailing from the University of Maryland. This is not the first year a team from the school earned honors at an APHA codeathon. In fact, University of Maryland teams earned top honors at APHA’s past two codeathons as well.

Other tools created during the codeathon include Yumme, an app that would help parents shop for and prepare healthy food with their children, and Tinder Healthbot, which would allow users to receive information on sexual health while using dating apps. Another tool, AHRx, would help people with diabetes better manage their disease by monitoring electronic health information.

Codeathon judge Jay Bhatt, chief health officer at the Illinois Hospital Association, encouraged teams to continue developing their tools, noting that “the work, engagement and fun does not stop after this weekend.”

— M.L. 

Above, the Terps Care team from the University of Maryland took home this year's top prize at the Public Health Codeathon. Photo courtesy APHA Flickr

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