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USC workshop shapes the future of mobile health

Experts examining ways in which mobile technologies contribute to wellness

Mobile health — or mHealth — has been a buzz phrase in the global health field for years. Following a recent USC conference, experts now are examining ways in which mobile technologies can contribute to immediate health interventions and overall wellness.

Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease dominate health care needs and spending in all high- and most low- and middle-income countries. The diseases cause an estimated 36 million deaths every year, including 9 million people dying before the age of 60.

In recognition of this global threat, the World Health Organization partnered in 2012 with the International Telecommunication Union to launch Be He@lthy, Be Mobile, an initiative that focuses on the use of mobile technology in preventing and controlling NCDs.

Part of the initiative, the 2014 Global mWellness Workshop at USC brought together a broad coalition of United Nations, government, academic and private sector partners to establish ways to implement national programs targeting diet, physical activity, stress and risk factor management.

“This pioneering workshop embodies USC’s trans-disciplinary approach to global health,” said Heather Wipfli, associate director of the USC Institute for Global Health and workshop organizer.

“With the number of mobile-cellular subscriptions approaching 7 billion worldwide,” she said, “now is the time to take advantage of the growing capacity to drive behavior change through handheld devices.”

Olympic athlete Sky Christopherson

Olympic athlete and entrepreneur Sky Christopherson spoke about how he used a digital health program to break a world record. (USC Photo/Larissa Puro)

Workshop attendees included academics, government officials and representatives from the World Health Organization (WHO), Nike, Verizon and Qualcomm, among others. The attendees are currently drafting a practical-steps document to launch national mWellness programs in select countries associated with the Be He@althy, Be Mobile initiative.

USC students took part in the workshop through the third annual USC Global Health Case Competition, for which the conference participants served as judges. This year’s case challenge asked students to construct mWellness solutions to control and prevent NCDs.

The winning team of five undergraduates proposed a national “dancersize” program in the Philippines. The students will represent USC at the International Emory Global Health Case Competition at month’s end.

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USC workshop shapes the future of mobile health

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