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Could Good Health Be Contagious?

Nov 18, 2013, 6:00 PM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

teamup4health group exercise

A study released this week at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions provides early evidence indicating that social networks can be leveraged to spread good health. The study, which is the first long-term randomized trial of its kind in the U.S., recruited friends and families in rural Kentucky into "microclinic" social network clusters. Together, the microclinic groups attended weekly social events, such as physical activity sessions and nutrition classes.  Collectively called Team Up 4 Health, these activities were supported with gifts from Humana, a health care company focused on wellness, as well as funding from the Mulago Foundation and the Goldsmith Foundation. Microclinic members lost more weight and more inches from their waistlines than those who received standard individual care. Microclinic participants sustained these results over time, lasting beyond the 10-month program period to even six months later.

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Grantee Spotlight: Nicholas Christakis

Jul 24, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Lori Melichar


We at Pioneer are fortunate to work with grantees who consistently challenge our thinking and open us up to new ways of looking at the world. Nicholas Christakis, MD, PhD, MPH is no exception. We recently watched a talk of his on titled A New Kind of Social Science for the 21st Century (which we highly recommend), and found ourselves brimming with questions. His answers were as provocative as the talk itself, so we thought we'd share them. Read the Q&A.

Making Big Data a Force for Good

Jul 5, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team


In case you missed it, the New York Times recently devoted a section to the business and culture of big data. “Virtually every field, from science to sports to public health, is being transformed by data-driven discovery and decision-making,” observed writer Steve Lohr. The coverage included several insights into the intersections of data and health. We were especially interested to read about data scientist Jeff Hammerbacher’s new role at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine (he used to run the data-mining team at Facebook), where he’s “exploring genetic and other medical data in search of breakthroughs in disease modeling and treatment.” Also of interest: how CVS is using data to “stage-manage paths to the prescription counter” (apparently, those with chronic health problems are their best customers), and this chart of devices that track health data.

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The Body-Data Craze, the Hype Cycle and Why It Matters

Jul 3, 2013, 11:15 AM, Posted by Steve Downs

Calit2 Health data visualization at Calit2. Photo courtesy of Calit2

On my way out to visit the Calit2 team that is running the Health Data Exploration project (sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio), I read Alissa Quart's excellent piece in Newsweek about the Quantified Self (QS) movement and health. The article covers many of the possible benefits as well as the downsides of self-tracking.

As Quart acknowledges, she also focuses quite a bit on the edge cases, the extreme QSers, painting a picture that can seem a little ridiculous. It’s inevitable; whenever a new technology emerges, a subset of early adopters takes it to the extreme, making the technology and its applications easy for us to mock (see "glasshole").

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Video: Larry Smarr on the Health Data Exploration Project

Jun 10, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Steve Downs, Lori Melichar

As we set forth on the Health Data Exploration project, we're being guided by a wonderful set of advisors. Here's a quick video post from one of them, Larry Smarr, the director of Calit2.  Larry's a pioneer who's exploring the frontiers of quantified self, as you can see from the extraordinary talk he gave at TEDMED earlier this year.