Surgeon General's Healthy Apps Challenge: Winners Announced

Feb 22, 2012, 7:33 PM, Posted by

Winners of the Surgeon General’s Healthy App Challenge were announced late last week, after the challenge launched earlier this winter at the mHealth Summit. The goal of the challenge was to highlight the ability of innovative new technologies to provide health information tailored to the needs of the user, and empower the public to regularly engage in and enjoy health-promoting behaviors.

>>Read more about the value of challenges to promote innovation from HHS Chief Technology Officer, Todd Park.

"I've been delighted with the response to the challenge," said Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, MPH. "The winning apps will help many Americans to have fun while getting fit and healthy."

The applications were assessed by a team of judges that included figure skater Michelle Kwan and Shellie Pfohl, Executive Director of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. Criteria used to assess the apps included:

  • usefulness
  • innovativeness
  • quality of evidence supporting the app’s approach to healthy behaviors
  • usability
  • ability to tailor and download personal data
  • the “fun” factor

In addition, all the apps submitted for review had to be available on readily accessible platforms, free for consumer use and fully operational without the purchase of additional products.

And the winners are...

Healthy Eating and Nutrition Winners

GoodGuide (available for both iOS and Android)

This app makes it easy to get the information about food, personal care, and household products to help consumers make healthy (and green and ethical) choices. Shoppers use the device’s bar code scanner to get the information while shopping.

Fooducate (available for both iOS and Android)

When shopping, the device lets users scan product bar codes for a quick read on a food’s health value, represented by a letter grade from A to D, plus additional information such as nutrients and additives. The app can offer healthier alternatives and compare two products side-by-side.

Physical Fitness and Activity Winners

Lose It! (available for iOS; it can also be used on the web)

This app allows users to set a daily calorie budget and the app sends prompts to record food intake and exercise to meet that budget.

Two other apps in this category received high marks:

Fit Friendzy (available for iOS)

This app encourages users to be more active by highlighting the benefits of not just traditional exercise but also of tasks like gardening, dancing, house cleaning and snow shoveling. Users can also share exercise data with a health care provider.

MapMyFitness (available for iOS, BlackBerry and Android)

This app uses the built-in GPS on a mobile device to track location of fitness activities. Users can create a training log, record activity, keep track of calories consumed, and share information with friends.

Integrative Health and Well-being Winners

Healthy Habits (available for iOS)

This app recognizes that good health is not just about keeping active and eating healthily, but also about getting a good night’s sleep, thinking positively and spending time with family and friends. It also addresses health issues such as smoking, wearing sunscreen, taking time for creative activities and reducing stress. Users can choose which healthy habits they want to track.

Children's App Winners

Two additional apps focused on children’s health received high marks.

Max’s Plate (available for iOS)

This app is a fun way for kids to learn about good nutrition.

Short Sequence: Kids’ Yoga Journey (available for iOS, Android and Nook)

This app has simple instructions for yoga poses for children.

NewPublicHealth received a comment from HealthyHabits winner Jo Masterson of 2MorrowMobile to let us know about their win, so we asked them a bit more about being in the challenge. The firm is a software company developing applications for the mobile platform.

"This is the first challenge we have entered and our first win!" says Masterson. As a prize, the contest offers "bragging rights," said Masterson, "but we consider that pretty cool. We also get our app listed on the Surgeon General website." "The other huge value to us," Masteron said, "is that it helps validate our concept that mobile technology can assist people in making lasting behavior changes. And, as a small start-up this award also gives us some extra credibility."

Jo Masterson says the team at 2MorrowMobile, started in 2009, are all in their late 40's. "We are at the point in our lives where we understand the value of health and happiness," says Masterson. "Our vision goes way beyond this app and we envision creating a suite of mobile tools that help people improve their lives, mostly focused on changing behaviors and habits."


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