Two more partner cities, Terrassa, Spain and Eindhoven, The Netherlands, are looking for solutions to create a healthy living environment. Eindhoven notes that good health is a primary determinant of happiness; Terrassa takes a more practical view by recognizing the need to promote prevention in public health. But regardless of the reason, both cities want to help their citizens maintain healthier lifestyles. MIYO is a web-based tool for developing health-related materials to remind and inform patients of the need to obtain colorectal cancer screening. Its unique approach uses health behavior theory, which suggests that messages that include images and messaging that are tailored to the individual produce higher rates of healthy actions. MIYO was developed by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri with funding from the Centers for Disease Control.

While cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States (as of 2007), deaths resulting from accidental injuries (like from automobile accidents) rank highly as well. Students competing in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup, which challenged students to “imagine a world where technology helps solve the toughest problems,” developed an app to help reduce traffic accidents. Team Hermes, the developers, wanted to address head-on the 1.2 million traffic deaths per year.  Their “boy racer” app makes a game out of driving – one that encourages young male drivers to pay more attention to their driving rather than less. The game rewards points for good driving, which is determined by g-forces, revs, speed, and throttle position, and places these drivers in direct competition with others similar to them. Winners get more than points – insurance companies are willing to provide lower premiums to drivers who score well in the game.

Both solutions are low cost methods through which public health agencies can promote healthy living environments and behavior in their cities.

-          Terra Curtis