Tag Archives: innovation

Integrating Technology into the WIC Experience – ‘Anna’ the Avatar by Dr. Phred Pilkington

Anna the AvatarBy Dr. Phred Pilkington Chief Executive Officer & Director of Public Health Cabarrus Health Alliance

With funding through the Beacon Community Program, Cabarrus Health Alliance and the North Carolina Institute for Public Health (NCIPH) collaborated to adapt a Virtual Character or avatar to the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) environment. The avatar, ‘Anna,’ leverages Embodied Conversational Agent (ECA) technology from Engineered Care. ‘Anna’ was designed to introduce WIC to new participants.

The first module of the avatar is an overview of the WIC Program which teaches participants how to effectively use their benefits. ‘Anna’ is a pregnant WIC participant excited to share with her peers. She uses teach-back questions and answers to ensure user comprehension.

An additional component of the first phase of the project was to assess satisfaction with and effectiveness of the avatar technology in the WIC programs. The Southern Piedmont Beacon Community includes the counties of Cabarrus, Stanly, and Rowan and each of their local WIC Departments. This cross-section of counties allows us to study the effectiveness in rural, rural-urban, and urban health departments. The study assessed the resources and time required to implement a digital health education solution. Touch-screen tablets were provided to two WIC Programs and small computer systems were provided to the third. Paper surveys were provided to WIC clients following the interaction to assess client satisfaction, knowledge and confidence.

At this time, the evaluation is still in process; however, preliminary findings suggest that WIC participants find the ‘Anna’ experience to be an engaging one. Anecdotally, participants offered that “This was better than face-to-face cause I have a tendency to zone out when someone talks to me” and “I liked her.” In addition, ‘Anna’ appears to be an effective learning option with participants noting that “Anna is …better than a DVD” and “this was better than someone talking to you.”

Effectively this project is a pilot intended to collect some preliminary findings about the efficacy of a computer avatar as a health educator. Assuming positive results with WIC clients, we plan to expand the role of ‘Anna’ to include health education in other public health clinical services and for community-based interventions.

For a five minute demo of ‘Anna,’ please click here [wmv file].

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MappyHealth: Tracking local health trends with Twitter

In March 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) hosted the Now Trending – #Health in My Community challenge. This opportunity allowed teams to use open source Twitter data to create a web based application that would automatically deliver a list of the top-five trending illnesses from a specified geographic area in a twenty-four hour period.

The winner of the challenge, MappyHealth, encourages local health departments to use the free web-based application to track health concerns in real time in their communities using Twitter.

Watch NACCHO’s ePublic Health Blog interview with the MappyHealth team and learn how your health department can start using this innovative tool to track local health trends!

Contact MappyHealth

The BIG Data Talk and How it Can Improve Public Health

“U.S. spends more per person on health care than any other nation in the world – without obvious evidence of better outcome.” This problem may be solved by the proper use of big data.

There has been a lot of talk about big data lately. You might be wondering what this all means or how it can impact your work.

What do people mean by big data?

Big data refers to the collection of large data sets and its management for proper use. It is often considered as unstructured data. In terms of how it is applied to health, it is the idea of how it can be captured and stored effectively to be properly analyzed for correlations and valuable change in health improvement.

The best description I’ve heard of big data is by Todd Park when he describes it as “making data actionable.”

WIRED & RWJF talk big data

The WIRED magazine and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) recently had a gathering of great minds in New York City, October 12-14. The conference engaged thought leaders in a groundbreaking conversation on the future of healthcare, one which focused solely on big data. Read Dr. Phred Pilkington’s, ePublic Health & Informatics workgroup member, summary of the conference here.

RWJF’s Steve Downs, chief technology officer, recently talked about Better Data = Better Health. For him, big data “is really an umbrella concept that speaks to the huge growth in the availability of data, and its ability to drive understanding, and ultimately improvements in health.” – via RWJF

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s president and CEO, said big data is like “watching the planet develop a nervous system.”

How might big data improve your work in public health?

Analysis of data sets:

•    Will give a clearer idea of areas of investment;
•    An emergence of innovation of new products in the industry;
•    A change to current business models;
•    More realistic short term to long term value;
•    Cost-effective measures; and
•    Proven best practices in prevention and treatment.

The list goes on.

This is only a preview of many more big data discussions to come. In the meantime, we want to hear from you.  How are you making use of big data within your community?

•    In what areas of your work would data be most useful?
•    Are you collecting data and making it actionable? How?

Summary of WIRED Health Conference by Dr. Pilkington

On October 15-16, in New York City, the WIRED Health Conference in association with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation convened a conference to explore the challenges and opportunities of data-driven medicine. Featured speakers included geneticist Craig Venter, MIT’s Gig Hirsch, architect Michael Graves, and Intel’s Andy Grove. The subject was “Big Data”. The question was what is Big Data and what does it mean for health care providers and consumers?

The federal government has acknowledged this predicament and recently set aside more than $200 million to fund big data initiatives. Earlier this month, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded about $15 million to fund eight big data research projects. The awards will “ultimately help accelerate research to improve health — by developing methods for extracting important, biomedically relevant information from large amounts of complex data,” said NIH Director, Francis Collins in a press release. Other researchers are mining social media data to monitor the adverse effects of certain medications, and the NIH has also put the data from the 1000 Genomes Project in the cloud for other scientists to use.

The slate of sessions at the live-streamed WIRED conference showcased the many ways data can be deployed to improve health and wellness. Former Intel Chairman and CEO Andy Grove issued a call to arms to free healthcare data, making his case for radical price transparency in medicine. Another session at the conference spotlighted the work of Nicholas Christakis, director of the Human Nature Laboratory at Harvard University who said, “there’s a lot of talk about personal data, but even more important than individuals’ wellness behavior is the way that networks of people affect each other’s health.” Craig Venter imagined a future where you can download software, print a vaccine, inject it, and presto! Contagion averted.

– Dr. William “Phred” Pilkington, Chief Executive Officer & Director of Public Health Cabarrus Health Alliance

Making Ideas Grow in Every Community – A Brief Summary of the Social Good Summit for Local Public Health

A powerful, engaging, and global conversation took place at the 2012 Social Good Summit in New York City (September 22-24). The deeper message behind the projects, initiatives, and innovations, was to become engaged in something greater than yourself to make a change in this world. Now more than ever before, as local communities within this broader global context, we’re at a better place to engage in innovative solutions for problem solving. The Summit was a collaboration of Mashable, United Nations Foundation, 92Y, United Nations Development Programme, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Ericsson.

Local health departments need to keep up with today’s technologies but also prepare for the challenges and opportunities that tomorrow brings. Some of these stories show how cost-effective solutions can come about in low resource settings. I hope to inspire you with these stories and move you to develop new initiatives in your community.

While you read these stories, consider how similar ideas can be initiated in your community.

  • What resources are needed?
  • What kind of public-private partnership should you look for? Which organizations should you approach?
  • What kind of business plan should you create?

Unleashing The Power Of Open Innovation In Government
Todd Park, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, the White House

A highly energetic Todd Park, shared his role and responsibility by focusing on these three primary tasks:

  • Make new data available to the public;
  • Take already available but unusable data and make it usable;  and
  • Make entrepreneurs and innovators aware of the government data.

Park said “You take the data that’s already there and jujitsu it, put it in machine-readable form, let entrepreneurs take it and turn it into awesomeness.”

As a result of his initiatives at both HHS and now the White House, Park has inspired developers to create “…products or services helping tens of thousands of people improve their health service experience around the country.”

For more information visit http://www.hdiforum.org.

Video link: http://new.livestream.com/Mashable/SGS/videos/3987528

Can Mobile Phones Eliminate Pediatric AIDS?
Josh Nesbit, CEO, Medic Mobile
Anu Gupta, Director in Corporate Contributions, Johnson & Johnson
Robert Fabricant, Vice President of Creative, Frog Design

The answer to the above question? “No,” said Josh Nesbit, it isn’t the device that will end it but the people using the mobile device that can.

According to Nesbit “A billion people will never see a doctor in their lives, but 90% of the world’s population is covered by mobile.”  He followed to say, “50% of the people in Sub-Saharan Africa own phones.”

His organization’s efforts have already seen results in initiatives in India. Vaccination coverage has gone from 60% to 90% coverage.

An interesting example he shared was of a $15 camera device that can take holographic pictures to remotely analyze blood samples. That in itself shows how far a mobile device can go to support areas with no clinics and health services.

For more information on Nesbit’s organization, http://medicmobile.org.

Video link: http://new.livestream.com/Mashable/SGS/videos/3988840

How Google Earth is Changing the World
Rebecca Moore, Engineering Manager, Google Earth Outreach & Earth Engine Google, Inc.

We all have our preference in search engines, but most people know how far Google has gone to create innovations beyond just simple searches.  Rebecca Moore shared examples of Google Earth Outreach. Now you ask, what is this service? Google Earth Outreach provides tools to nonprofits to help raise awareness, increase decision-making and engage stakeholders.

This service provides free versions of the following tools but advanced, fee-based versions are available as well: Google Earth; Google Earth Engine; Google Maps Engine; Open Data Kit; Spreadsheet Mapper; Custom Maps for Google Maps; Google Fusion Tables; Google Maps API; Google Street View; and Google Map Maker.

How are these services helpful to public health?

Researchers are constantly making discoveries through Google Earth. For instance, scientists discovered a rare type of Coral Reef on the remote shores of Australia. The area was scheduled for oil mining, and once the discovery was made the plans for drilling were stopped. Moore explained how Google Earth enables users to tell a story. For example, the effects of coal mining that includes mountain top removal, which results in debris in communities and subsequent health risks. The localities, especially those indicated sensitive locations on the map, like schools and hospitals can then be mapped to better understand the direct health risk to the community. This Google tool combined with public health knowledge and urban planning can help spur community activism to fight against activity that poses dangerous health risks to the population.

Can your health department use this tool to tell a story?

Video link: http://new.livestream.com/Mashable/SGS/videos/3991619

Shrinking the “Digital Divide”: The Future of Mobile
Larry Irving, Co-Founder, Mobile Alliance for Global Go

Being connected with a purpose was the message that Larry Irving delivered along with needing to focus on outcomes.

Mobile connectivity is changing lives and providing promising solutions to tough problems. Although, as Irving said, “This is the most important device ever for changing the world, but we have to work together to make it work the way we want it to work.” Solutions are hard according to Irving, but his advice was that, “You’re talking about changing business models. You’re talking about changing cultures. You’re talking about changing operational models. And we have to sit down together and figure out how this is going to work.”

His advice for mobile optimization is:

  • Hackathons should focus less on solely about a technology and instead focus on how technology can help fill gaps in society and social needs;
  • Bring investors and entrepreneurs to the table; and
  • Celebrate individuals and groups that are making social good happen with mobile solutions.

Video link: http://new.livestream.com/Mashable/SGS/videos/4025900

Digital Disaster Relief
Wendy Harman, Director of Social Strategy, American Red Cross
David Kobia, Director of Technology Development, Ushahidi
Samantha Murphy, Mashable

Responding and being aware of disastrous situations is indeed a hard job. That’s why the American Red Cross is expanding its services by giving the public a seat at the table. Wendy Harman said this has two components: 1) aggregating big data for situational awareness 2) building a digital volunteer task-force. I recently participated in one of their social media trainings as part of their volunteer task-force and believe that they are moving in the right direction to create a larger digital presence. By leveraging their Digital Operations Center and the use of digital volunteers, they can extend their services through multiple platforms in a new way. To learn more about the American Red Cross’ Digital Operations Center, read here.

Ushahidi stands for “witness” in Swahili. It is an open source project which allows users to crowdsource crisis information to be sent via mobile. David Kobia said that the open source platform allows for data to be visualized on a map, showing stories of different occurrences during crises.  For more information, http://www.ushahidi.com/about-us.

Can local health departments use such tools to visualize important data in their communities?

Video link:  http://new.livestream.com/Mashable/SGS/videos/4026562

Using Mapping Technology to End Polio
Nicole Newnham, Documentary Film Maker & Writer, The Revolutionary Optimists
Linord Moudou, Anchor & Reporter, Voice Of America
Sherine Guirguis, Communications Specialist, UNICEF

Why is it so important now more than ever to end polio? “If we don’t finish polio now, it will come back,” says Sherine Guirguis. Now we’re closer than ever to eradicate this disease and with support of technology, we’re coming closer to ending it.

Map Your World, is a multi-platform project that puts the power of new technologies into the hands of young change agents, enabling them to map, track, and improve the health of their own communities – and then share their stories of change with each other and with the world. A young group of children called the Daredevils of West Bengal, made their mission to increase polio vaccination in their community (due to a personal story of a child they knew who died of polio). Using paper megaphones and going door to door these children advocated for vaccination. Their tracking only went so far, but with the help of documentary film makers they were able to adopt an open source technology that enables them to keep track of their progress.

How can we engage our communities and target major health issues by creating low cost innovative tools?

Video link: http://new.livestream.com/Mashable/SGS/videos/4028200