mHealth Summit: The opposite of global is not domestic

By Brian Dolan
06:42 am
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Dr Francis Collins, Director, NIHThe National Institutes of Health's commitment to mobile health is "wide and deep" Dr Francis Collins, the 16th director of the NIH explained during the keynote session that kicked off the mHealth Summit in Washington D.C. this morning. Collins pointed to the NIH's increasing number of research grants related to mobile health, a handful of sample mHealth applications and a new summer program that aims to train researchers interested in mHealth.

Of the more than 20 institutes in the NIH, a majority of them have awarded grants for mobile-enabled research. Some 150 mHealth awards were granted by the NIH in 2010 alone, which doubles the number awarded just two years ago in 2008, according to Collins' presentation. Collins found that more than $36 million in research grants were awarded this year related to mobile health.

Collins highlighted a number of NIH-funded mHealth applications and devices including a lens-less microscope that attaches to a cell phone; a personal sensor network that detects hydrocarbons and other contaminants in the air and alerts wearers via a mobile phone interface; as well as a wellness monitoring system that includes a camera and accelerometer to record physical activity and dietary choices. Collins called the wellness monitor a "particularly ambitious effort". (He's being diplomatic, but we'd have to agree. A camera, really?) Collins said this more automated process will help root out self-reports where patients share information with care providers that is closer to what they "wished they had done as opposed to what they actually did."

Collins also previewed a forthcoming announcement from the NIH: A new summer institute program for 25 junior investigators interested in learning best practices for mobile-enabled health research. This five-day program in La Jolla, California next summer will provide mentorship opportunities to the researchers. More information will be posted on this NIH site. If there's enough interest in the program, Collins expect the following year will be held somewhere on the East Coast of the US.

One of Collins' closing remarks was particularly poignant as he addressed the seeming duality between "developing markets" and "developed" markets:

The opposite of "global" is not "domestic," he said.

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