App Challenge: Battle Obesity with Public Health Data

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media , June 28, 2011

What can healthcare leaders do with all of this information? They can use it to improve the health and wellness not only of their own patients, but potential patients as well.

"Most hospitals have big community benefit work that they do. And I can see using this kind of information to say, on the part of the hospital, 'Here's what we're going to do around promoting walking trails or parks or supporting farmer's markets,'" Beal says.

Beal says she hopes developers—who will partner with public health professionals while working on the apps—will come up with something hot, new, unique—a game-changer, if you will. Yes, it has to make use of data and it has to make that data useful by presenting it at a micro-level—specific to the patients of an individual provider. But she also hopes developers will present all that data in a way that is compelling, and that can be easily shared through social media.

Data, Beal adds, could be the key to solving a number of health issues. It can be used to improve care coordination and to facilitate integrated care models. "Providers, in particular, need to figure out how to talk to one another and how to share data and information about an individual patient in their care."

Aetna's projects have included not only obesity but also racial inequities in healthcare. It used its own data to help ensure that all of its enrollees were getting the same quality of care, access, and outcomes and, where that was not the case, develop programs around diabetes and hypertension, for example.
Other healthcare organizations can do the same, Beal says. 

"Everyone is sitting on data—whether you're a hospital or a health plan—everyone is sitting on data. And we really need to think creatively about the utility and application of our data to … create evidence-based and informed interventions to improve health and wellness."

The top prize for Aetna's Health 2.0 Developer Challenge is $25,000 and two free passes to the Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco this fall. Second and third prizes are $15,000 and $10,000, respectively. Applications will be judged on their user-friendliness and interactive capabilities; the quality of health data integration; creativity and innovation; and potential for impact, Aetna says.

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