In June 2011, the National Prevention Council, which is chaired by U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, released the National Prevention Strategy, America’s plan for better health and wellness. National public health recommendations and guidelines currently exist for physical activity (Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans), nutrition (MyPlate), and overall health and wellness (Healthy People 2020). Yet approximately 40 percent of American adults report that they do not engage in any leisure-time physical activity, with less than half the population meeting public health recommendations for physical activity. In 2009, fewer than 1 in 10 Americans included the recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables in their diet. Over one-third of Americans are currently obese. Research also finds that sleep health contributes to obesity and disease, but 40 percent of Americans report unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once in the preceding month.

As a step toward addressing this need for individuals to engage in their own health and to make healthy choices, the Office of the Surgeon General, in collaboration with Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), is pleased to launch the Surgeon General’s Healthy App Challenge. This developer’s challenge is designed to encourage the development (by innovators) and use (by all Americans) of consumer-facing technology to create a healthy and fit nation. Consumer electronic health (e-health), new media, and mobile technologies have great potential to connect individuals, including those in underserved and hard-to-reach communities, to health care resources and decision making supports, enabling healthier lifestyle decisions. The challenge will highlight a selection of mobile apps in support of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) efforts to empower individuals to make healthy choices using electronic technology.

The Surgeon General’s Healthy App Challenge invites developers to submit their health, wellness and fitness apps for review by an independent panel of reviewers selected by the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin. The panel will be supported by the Office of the Surgeon General, the ONC Innovations office and the Consumer e-Health program. Winners will be announced at a public event in late January.

The following categories of applications will be considered:

  • Fitness/physical activity: This category is focused on applications particularly aimed at recruiting and retaining those people who are not currently regularly exercising.
  • Nutrition/healthy eating: This category is focused on applications aimed at quickly prepared home meals, eating out sensibly, and getting healthy food in airports and when travelling.
  • Integrative health: This category is focused on applications aimed at integrating multiple aspects of wellness (healthy sleep habits, boosting mental/spiritual health, lifestyle behavior change, social health, family health, community health, etc.).

The future of consumer e-health is in enabling individuals to integrate health information from diverse sources, including medical information from clinicians, clinics and hospitals and information from daily life experiences that relate to health. This will allow consumers to address their unique preferences and provide tailored feedback to these. That’s why this challenge requires that all apps have a data download or accessibility function. Special consideration will be given to those entries which bring a “fun factor” to health-promoting behaviors.

Once the winner is selected in each category, Surgeon General Benjamin will use each of the winning applications and write about her experiences using social media. The challenge is designed to encourage the development and submission of technology applications that can complement and enhance two key aspects of the Surgeon General’s public health agenda:

Interested developers should read the Official Rules and register on the Challenge.gov website.

Registration is free and can be completed anytime during the Application Submission Period, December 6, 2011, to December 30, 2011.

Through this challenge the Surgeon General aims to empower and inspire Americans to be healthy and fit and show how new media, like applications for mobile technologies, that are part of our everyday lives can help provide the tools.

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