Student app looks to drive healthy behaviours
By Adela Talbot
July 11, 2013
Given the option of writing a term paper or designing a mobile application for Candace Gibson’s Health Information Management class last semester, six students picked the latter, perhaps more unconventional, option.
And now, they are spending the next few months working to introduce that project into the real world.
Within the app, Bhavin Prajapati, Steve Tailleu, Russell Pellar, Alexandra L‘Heureux, Melissa Kargiannakis and Ufuoma Eghele chose to tackle the 4x4, a Michigan’s public health document stressing four healthy behaviours and the monitoring of four health measures.
The project’s motivation stemmed from Gibson’s connections to public health in Michigan. In that state, government health initiatives are a challenge due to a low-income bracket, higher-than-average obesity, diabetes and chronic illness rates.
The app the students created helps put a government health policy into practice.
“We wanted to try to address it in a way that’s feasible for the government. It was a way to covert the policy into something interactive and easy for people to use,” he added.
Called 4Mi Health, the app encourages people to practice four healthy behaviours – exercise, healthy eating, getting routine health screenings and avoiding tobacco. It also stores and tracks the progress of four health measures –blood glucose, cholesterol, blood pressure and Body Mass Index (or BMI).
“The app is based on preventative care. It’s about building and promoting a healthy lifestyle by doing things that aren’t too difficult to do on a daily basis. It (the app) is as simplistic as possible, not intimidating,” Tailleu said.
For instance, in the Healthy Behaviours category, the app has a built-in tracker for food and exercise, allowing users to log the food they’ve eaten, see what categories of the food pyramid they are lacking, while also tracking the amount of daily exercise. It links users to recommended health screening schedules and also tracks their craving for tobacco, offering distractions and articles at random to read while waiting for the craving to pass.
The four health measures are likewise monitored, allowing the user to upload test results and measurements, tracking progress all the while.
“You can check off as you go. It tracks your progress and gives you feedback. It’s a positive reinforcement app,” Tailleu continued.
Tailleu and Prajapati, project leads, presented the idea at a Michigan conference earlier this spring. The pair also attended an eHealth conference in Ottawa last month, hoping to gain exposure for the app and find a partner who can use and market the data collection the app is capable of.
Tailleu added the app could help doctors engage with their patients and it is obviously not just applicable in Michigan.
“Good health care is universal,” he said, adding the app isn’t a Band-Aid solution a problem, which is what a lot of healthcare software ends up doing.
“We need to make people want to use it,” he said.
The next step is getting public input. Prajapati and Tailleu are visiting various counties promoting the app. They will tailor the application for all platforms based on the feedback. They are still hoping to find partners that will help disseminate the app and put it to good use.
“We are looking for public feedback. We can’t go further without it,” Prajapati said.
8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Off-Campus Advertising Sales:
Chris Amyot, Campus Ad
The University of Western Ontario