Improving Community Health with Mobile and Web Tools
(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Mobile and web applications have enhanced access to information aimed at improving health and wellness in local communities. The challenge is to know how to design social technology tools in a way that they can connect people within their communities to promote health, fitness and nutrition on a bigger scale.
Andrea Parker, an assistant professor of personal health informatics and human-computer interaction at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, is addressing these challenges. She is involved with extensive community based research to understand the needs and priorities of people, particularly in low income communities.
Many of the communities in her research work have limited access to healthy food and play areas for children. She collects data from individuals and employs it to design mobile and tech tools such as touch screen apps and mobile phone software that promote healthy diet and physical activity. According to Parker, it is important that these technologies are engaging as well as sustainable.
One of her projects involves a mobile tool that helps connect families in low income areas in Boston. Based on her community interviews and feedback, Parker aims to develop a mobile tool that will encourage participants to continue their healthy habits all through the week and ask neighbors to follow suit. The tool may include applications that offer goals and rewards for participants to keep them motivated, or a mechanism to share media and personal success stories.
This will be quite like a social network that revolves around promotion and sustainability of healthy living. Parker says that most social networking apps involve users connecting with family and friends, but not much is understood about how people connect within a neighborhood. The aim of these mobile and web tools will be to empower people to improve the health of others in their neighborhoods.
Image Credit: Flickr via Manveer Singh Rajput