U.S. Surgeon General’s Healthy App Challenge

Damon Davis and Lesley Russell | December 6, 2011

Do you have mobile app ideas or have one already developed? The Surgeon General’s Healthy App Challenge invites developers to submit their health, wellness, and fitness mobile apps for review by an independent panel of reviewers selected by the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin. The panel will be supported by the Office of the Surgeon General, and the ONC Innovations Office and Consumer e-Health program.  Winners will be announced at a public event in late January.

Goals of the Healthy App Challenge:

This developer’s challenge for healthy mobile app ideas is designed to encourage the development (by innovators) and use (by all Americans) of consumer-facing technology to create a healthy and fit nation. Consumer electronic health (e-health), new media, and mobile technologies have great potential to connect individuals, including those in underserved and hard-to-reach communities, to health care resources and decision-making supports, enabling healthier lifestyle decisions. The challenge will highlight a selection of mobile apps in support of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) efforts to empower individuals to make healthy choices using electronic technology.

The future of consumer e-health is in enabling individuals to integrate health information from diverse sources, including medical information from clinicians, clinics, and hospitals and information from daily life experiences that relate to health. This will allow consumers to address their unique preferences and provide tailored feedback. That’s why this challenge requires that all mobile app ideas have a data download or accessibility function. Special consideration will be given to those entries which bring a “fun factor” to health-promoting behaviors.

Categories for Mobile App Submission:

  • Fitness/physical activity: Applications particularly aimed at recruiting and retaining those people who are not currently regularly exercising.
  • Nutrition/healthy eating: Applications aimed at quickly prepared home meals, eating out sensibly, and getting healthy food in airports and when traveling.
  • Integrative health: Applications aimed at integrating multiple aspects of wellness (healthy sleep habits, boosting mental/spiritual health, lifestyle behavior change, social health, family health, community health, etc.).

Once the winner is selected in each category, Surgeon General Benjamin will use each of the winning mobile app ideas and write about her experiences using social media. The challenge is designed to encourage the development and submission of apps that can complement and enhance two key aspects of the Surgeon General’s public health agenda:

Interested developers with mobile app ideas should read the Official Rules and register at the Challenge.gov portal:http://sghealthyapps.challenge.gov/. Registration is free and can be completed anytime during the Application Submission Period, December 6, 2011, to December 30, 2011.

Through this challenge, the Surgeon General aims to empower and inspire Americans to be healthy and fit and show how new media, like mobile applications, that are part of our everyday lives can help provide the tools.

More about the Healthy App Challenge:

In June 2011, the National Prevention Council, which is chaired by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, released the National Prevention Strategy, America’s plan for better health and wellness. National public health recommendations and guidelines currently exist for physical activity (Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans), nutrition (MyPlate), and overall health and wellness (Healthy People 2020). Yet approximately 40 percent of American adults report that they do not engage in any leisure-time physical activity, with less than half the population meeting public health recommendations for physical activity.  In 2009, fewer than one in 10 Americans included the recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables in their diet. More than one-third of Americans are currently obese. Research also finds that sleep health contributes to obesity and disease, but 40 percent of Americans report unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once in the preceding month.

As a step toward addressing this need for individuals to engage in their own health and to make healthy choices, the Office of the Surgeon General, in collaboration with Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), is pleased to launch the Surgeon General’s Healthy App Challenge. Innovative mobile app ideas are welcome!