Need Innovative Health Solutions? Ask a Kid

Apr 22, 2013, 8:30 AM, Posted by Steve Downs

Stephen J. Downs

Sometimes the best ideas come from unexpected sources – beyond technology, beyond research, beyond clinical trials. Sometimes, the future of health and health care lies somewhere else: in the people who will bring it about.

And sometimes, those people are children.

Recently, I heard about a project from the FIRST® LEGO® League, a robotics program for 9-to-16-year-olds focused on finding innovative solutions to real-world problems. In the fall of 2012, the League sponsored a Senior Solutions Challenge, which paired teams of 10 children in grades 4 through 8 with an adult coach to use robotics to help seniors solve problems they face every day.

A team in Northern Illinois called RoboPop was inspired by dwellSense, which received funding from Project HealthDesign, a national program of the Pioneer Portfolio. dwellSense uses sensors to monitor the routines of elders who are at risk for cognitive decline. RoboPop created a computer program for pillboxes that tracks whether a senior has taken her medication; if the program detects that a patient failed to take her pills, it calls three people to notify them. (The team also developed a Mary Poppins-themed presentation to promote their idea to health professionals, which is better than any PowerPoint I’ve ever seen.)

We at Pioneer are excited about the potential impact that technologies like dwellSense may have on the lives of seniors and children alike. The future of health and health care rests in the hands of the next generation, and we can’t wait to see what they’ll dream up next.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.