Surgeon General Announces New Healthy Apps Challenge

Dec 6, 2011, 7:21 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

This morning, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, delivered the keynote address at the mHealth Summit, and announced the new Healthy Apps Challenge, in collaboration with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, to encourage developers and innovators to create mobile and other technological applications to help complement the nation's first National Prevention Strategy.

>>Read our Q&A with the Surgeon General on the launch of the National Prevention Strategy.

>>Hear from Farzad Mostashari, MD, ScM, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, on the potential of health technology for public health.

The new app challenge is looking for apps that will engage individuals with tailored health information and empower users to eat healthy, get active and improve their emotional wellbeing – and enjoy it! Dr. Benjamin emphasized that last point. "Joy is so important," said Dr. Benjamin. "We each have to find our own joy in health." Dr. Benjamin finds her joy in dancing, and said she encourages her colleagues to have 60-second dance parties at work as a fun way to take a physical activity break.

Though the Surgeon General applauded the potential for technology to improve the public's health, she also called for a broader, system-wide change, as outlined by the National Prevention Strategy. "In addition to state-of-the-art medicine and technology, we need a new approach in our communities that focuses on the things outside the doctor's office that keep us healthy, from healthy housing to transportation to access to healthy foods," said Dr. Benjamin. "That calls for the nation to take a more holistic, integrated approach to health."

Dr. Benjamin said the National Prevention Strategy brings together 17 federal agencies from across government, together with stakeholders from the private and community sectors, to help move the nation, "from a system focused on sickness and disease to one focused on prevention. We need to stop the illness before it starts."

Dr. Benjamin told the story of how when she was sworn in as Surgeon General, much of her family couldn’t be there with her to celebrate. Both of her parents had passed away from preventable, chronic diseases. "I don’t want anyone else to suffer the loss of a loved one for something that could be prevented," said Dr. Benjamin.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.