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Health IT Positively Affects Childhood Obesity

According to a study done by Pediatrics recently, more than one-third of children in the United States are overweight or obese. That’s a very scare figure, because that definitely increases the child’s chance of diseases like type-2 diabetes, and adult obesity. The authors of the study also noted that childhood obesity is often times undertreated and goes undiagnosed. As sad as it is, I have seen this

The study set out to see if Health IT may improve the “quality, efficiency and reach of chronic disease management,” according to this article. According to another article about this study, some of the parts of the study that are most relevant towards health IT included that “telemedicine was as effective as in-person counseling at reducing BMI and that text messaging and phone support were associated with weight loss maintenance.”

Combating childhood obesity is something I am very passionate about. As a child, and into my teenage years, I could have been classified as extremely overweight — probably even obese. While I’ve worked very hard to beat the statistics, and get my weight down to a now healthy weight, it is something that truly has affected my entire life to this day. And the thing is, when I was at the unhealthy weight that I was, no one said anything. No doctor, my parents, or anyone. Sure, I was encouraged to take a PE class here and there, and perhaps not take seconds — but no one saw that problem for what it was. Because of the things I went through, I want more than anything to prevent my own children from becoming overweight themselves. Reading this study, and seeing how health IT can positively affect childhood obesity was neat. While I think too much screen time can really contribute to the problem, I’m glad that there efforts out there to try and get kids involved in their own health, particularly by using electronics — something that most kids love. I hope that more Health IT developers will see the importance of creating apps, programs, and devices geared toward children. I couldn’t find any, but it would be cool if there were exercise apps that kids could put on their iPods that are similar to ones that adults have, but that are geared toward exercises more children participate in.  In my research, I found a few health IT apps and websites aimed toward kids that I think could be helpful:

Food Hero:
This is a game that was created by HealthSocial, a non-profit project based at the Children’s Hospital in Boston. To win the game, the child must “become” a food hero. To do this, the child must make their character make healthy choices, like eating healthy food and exercising, and earning gold along the way. If the character eats too much, physical challenges become more difficult. However, if too little is eaten, the character has difficult participating as well. The goal is to ultimately eat healthy meals. It seems like this game would be a great visual for children to see what happens when you don’t have balanced meals.

Food ‘N Me:
This website was created to promote healthy living in children. It has interactive games, quizzes like “What Food Am I.” This quiz has the child choose the foods they have eaten throughout the day, and it gives a rating at the bottom of the screen, telling the child how balanced it was. At the end of the quiz, it tells you what kind of food you are, based on your choices. For instance, if you eat primarily grains, it will say you are a bagel. The website also features the game Smash Your Food, which is also available on mobile devices, and I’ll talk about next.

Smash Your Food:
This app was on Michelle Obama’s “Apps for Health Kids” contest. Whether the person is using it online or on a mobile device, it works about the same. You get to “smash” foods — from milkshakes, hamburgers, to healthy, homemade meals. — and it tells you what it is made of.  The goal of it is to encourage children (and their parents) to understand what is in their meals, and to make healthy choices at home and on the go. It can be accessed at the Food ‘N Me website, or downloaded for the iPhone or iPad here for 2.99.

February 13, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Five Medical Apps Every Parent Should Have

Some of my favorite apps that I’ve used were designed for pregnant women (check out some great pregnancy apps I reviewed awhile back.) However, now that I’ve moved onto the next stage – you know, parenthood – I’ve found myself wanting to find some apps that educate and help parents take control of their child’s health. So tonight, I went on a search for some of those apps. Surprisingly, I had a hard time finding some, but I think the ones I found were worth the search. Whether you are a brand new mom or dad, or a seasoned parent of six, I think any parent (or even grandparent or caregiver) will appreciate these.

1) WebMD Baby: Obviously, I’m a big fan of WebMD and their mobile products. So I was a little surprised when I realized I didn’t have WebMD Baby on my phone. The app boasts that it “is like having a pediatrician in your pocket.” And who doesn’t want that? It has tons of information, articles, and videos to help a parent get through those first two years, and what a parent sees is specifically geared toward the age of their child. Beyond medical information and advice, there is a “baby book,” where parents can record when a child hits certain milestones.  Some of the key features are tools for height and weight measurements, sleep timer, check-up schedule, and weekly guides. If you download just one app, this would be the one I would consider. It’s kind of an all-around guide to raising a healthy baby. The app is free and available for both Android and iOS devices.

2) Sleep Champ AppI don’t know many parents who haven’t had issues with their child sleeping at some point or another. For my husband and me, we’re living through that stage right now. But what if there is some underlying issue, beyond just wanting to be near mommy and daddy? Sleep Champ was developed for parents and pediatricians, to help identify sleep problems in children, as well as offer suggestions for things like bed wetting. This app helps determine a child’s sleep quality. It asks simple yes-or-no questions and a score is generated. It isn’t meant to diagnose children, but perhaps give parents an indication if something needs to be investigated. The app does cost $3.99 for both Android and iOS devices.

3) KidsDocWhile the WebMD app can help identify illnesses, Kids Doc was created specifically for it. This app was developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and feature on their website, HealthyChildren.org. Illnesses are identified in three easy steps — selecting the most significant symptom (out of 99 choices), view the symptom decision chart to decide on a course of action, and then follow suggestions from a self-care guide to help a child feel better (even if it’s just to help until they can see a medical professional.) It also has dosage information for different medications, images to help identify visible symptoms, and the ability to call a doctor, hospital, or 911 with the click of a button. I personally love this app, and think it’s a great one for any parent or caregiver to have. It costs $1.99 and is available for both Android and iOS devices, but some features can be accessed from the HealthyChildren.org website.

4) iHomeopathy: For parents who choose a more natural way to treat their children’s illnesses, iHomeopathy is a great app. It helps find correct natural homepathic medications and dosages for tons of different situations (medical and first aid), can identify early signs of serious medical issues, and gives the location of pharmacies and grocery stores that sell the medications. It doesn’t need to be connected to WiFi or a data network to work, which is great for emergency situations. The description of the app says that it quickly help the user find information, without having to sort through tons of different conditions and symptoms. It has been featured on many different best app lists, including Parent’s Magazine’s “Best iPhone Apps for Parents” and Today’s Parent Magazines “21 Apps for Parents.” I tried to access the website for iHomeopathy, but it seems to not exist anymore. I don’t  It is only available for the iPhone and iPad, and costs $1.99.

5) iEmergency ICE Family PROThis app is basically a digital emergency ID card. While I would recommend still having emergency info on a hard copy somewhere (you know, for those times when the phone is dead), I think it is smart to have this information on a phone, ready to be accessed at a moment’s notice. All information that might be needed for an emergency situation (allergies, medications, insurance id #, PCP, preferred hospital, blood type, etc.) is stored on one page. Each family member can have their own section, complete with personalized information and their photo. A medical ID can actually be printed with all the information via the website for iEmergency. It is only available for iOS devices, and it is $2.99. If your child has an iTouch, this might be a great app to download on there, for those times when you aren’t around.

November 2, 2012 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.