Smartphone apps to treat obesity and alcohol abuse

Published on Tuesday, 26 November 2013 12:30
Written by Daniel Mason

Small businesses have worked with Government to develop innovative fat busting and alcohol tracking smartphone apps.

The apps, which are designed to help people beat obesity and alcohol abuse, are being developed by small businesses who won a share of a £2 million innovation fund to come up with creative ideas on how to help people stay healthy.

The winners include an app, Drink Coach, that people can use to track their drinking over an evening and get prompts on their phone reminding them to slow down. The latest version, to be launched next spring, will allow users to log any alcohol-related injuries or arguments and share their goals of cutting down drinking via social media.

Another winning idea is a smartphone adventure game, The Walk, which encourages players to walk 10,000 steps every day. The game features dynamic maps and a thriller storyline that you can only complete if you keep walking. The Walk launches in December 2013 and in January will be included in a research project at King's College Hospital examining how exercise can help treat patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

The five winners are:

  • Drink Coach developed by Haringey Advisory Group on Alcohol (HAGA)
  • Don'tbottleitup, developed by HAGA
  • The Walk, developed by Six to Start Ltd
  • StepJockey developed by StepJockey Ltd
  • Chimp Shop, developed by Attention Retraining Technologies Ltd

Health Minister, Lord Howe said:

"We want to encourage innovation and these creative ideas will help people take action to improve their health and make a difference to their lives.

"Small businesses drive innovation in this country and through competitions like this one, we can support and inspire businesses to grow and help address the healthcare challenges facing the NHS."

Don'tbottleitup is a website where people can take a test about their drinking, generate a rating and then get basic alcohol advice and information on where to go if they need more support. The other winning ideas are the StepJockey website and app, where people can rate and label parts of their physical environment for 'calorie burn'. Starting with stairs, it encourages people to build in exercise opportunities in their everyday lives. The Chimp Shop app, which is still in development, uses psychological techniques to help players retrain their attention and behaviour to assist them in reducing their alcohol consumption.

Obesity and alcohol related diseases cost the NHS more than £8 billion each year and present a major public health challenge for society.

The Department of Health funded this latest competition through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), which helps small, innovative businesses to win government contracts, promoting economic growth from the SME sector at the same time as addressing public sector needs.

The Government wants to make the UK the best place to start and grow a business. Earlier in November, the Government launched a public campaign to celebrate British success stories. The Government wants to inspire other small businesses and point them towards the support that can help them grow. It will also reaffirm its commitment to small business with a statement in December for how the whole of Government will back them. This will set out a range of measures to continue helping budding entrepreneurs and existing businesses succeed.

Source: Department of Health

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