Canada and U.S. seek to improve data on physical activity, sleep and inactive behaviour

Collaborative data challenges launched today

OTTAWA, April 27, 2017 /CNW/ - When it comes to our health, understanding the factors that influence our choices and behaviours is key to creating programs and policies that improve health and well-being. Public health experts traditionally rely on data from online questionnaires, in-person interviews, and telephone surveys to gain insight into a population's health. Now, new real-time data sources are emerging that can provide a more complete picture of the health of Canadians.

The Public Health Agency of Canada, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the United States Department of Health and Human Services today announced the launch of the Healthy Behaviour Data Challenge.

Starting today in Canada and the United States, open data enthusiasts, as well as health and technology innovators from public and private sector organizations, will help identify and evaluate new data sources for public health  surveillance. The goal is to find innovative ways to track, monitor and better understand physical activity, sleep and inactive behaviour through the use of data from technologies such as wearable devices and mobile applications.

Public health surveillance is crucial for providing advice to patients, tailoring prevention programs to specific populations, encouraging positive behaviour change, and identifying emerging areas that require public health attention. The creative ideas emerging from these data challenges will enhance existing data that can be used for comprehensive public health information.

Quick Facts

  • Approximately four in five Canadian adults have at least one risk factor for chronic disease, such as physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, unhealthy weight, smoking, or alcohol misuse. Better data can help address the reasons behind these risk factors.
  • The Public Health Agency of Canada is providing approximately $1 million in funding over the next three years to MaRS Discovery District, which will lead a series of three data challenges in Canada.  
  • Data challenges are open competitions that seek to draw on expertise and experience from a wide range of health, technology, open data and non-traditional partners to advance public health initiatives.
  • The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is also providing up to $100,000 in funding for the finalists and winners of the data challenges to further develop their ideas.

"Thanks to the collaboration between our partners here at home and in the United States, we have a unique opportunity to transform traditional public health surveillance and to find the evidence we need to shape action in public health. Our government is committed to encouraging innovative solutions that improve the quality of life of Canadians."
The Honourable Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P.
Canada's Minister of Health

"These innovative solutions to identifying and using emerging sources of health data can lead to new ways of encouraging healthy behaviours. I look forward to seeing the results."
Dr. Theresa Tam
Interim Chief Public Health Officer of Canada

"Thanks to our partnership with Canada, we are able to multiply our research and data that results from this challenge. Receiving accurate data is crucial for informing decision-making policies for both public health agencies. Any and all citizens in both countries can be a part of a monumental change in how we receive information and insight into the population's health and well-being."
Dr. Don Wright, MD, MPH
Acting Assistant Secretary for Health

"Data derived from new sources such as wearable technology or social media has enormous potential to support improvements in public health. The Healthy Behaviour Data Challenge is an important step in determining how we can best leverage these technologies to increase the amount, diversity and quality of data available for making public health decisions in Canada and the United States. MaRS is proud to take a lead on this initiative, supporting new partnerships between public health organizations and the innovation community to drive better outcomes for citizens."
Dr. Ilse Treurnicht
CEO of MaRS Discovery District

Associated Links
Data Challenge 
Data Blog: Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour, and Sleep (PASS): a new way of tracking healthy daily activity 
Public Health Infobase


SOURCE Public Health Agency of Canada

For further information: Andrew MacKendrick, Office of Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, 613-957-0200; Media Relations, Public Health Agency of Canada, 613-957-2983

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