Hack for Health

WSIS Action Lines advancing the implementation of SDGs

Hackathon Background

The future of health and well-being lies in stopping diseases before they start. In a world of growing populations, changing demographics and shrinking health budgets, preventative action will be a critical part of health care – which means more systematically engaging people in their own health care and lifestyle. This is especially true for non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Cancers, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory conditions, diabetes and mental disorders together cause around 68% of all deaths every year and represent an enormous social and financial burden for individuals and the health systems that serve them.

In settings constrained by poverty, limited health infrastructure and human-resource capacity, people are far less likely to access timely, adequate or affordable diagnosis and care. As a result, these preventable diseases are often detected at a late stage, increasing the likelihood of largely preventable, premature death. In cities around the world, urbanization is accelerating this NCD epidemic by increasing the number of people exposed to common risk factors for NCDs—such as physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, tobacco use, air pollution, physical waste, and alcohol abuse—as well as by placing greater demand on health systems that are already stretched thin.

One of the most promising solutions to the issue of ‘urban unhealthiness’ is the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Healthy City program, which aims at making health considerations an integral part of urban design and management. While not new, this program is of growing relevance today as the global community seeks mechanisms to fight urban health challenges, including NCDs. Indeed, mobile and digital health solutions can help increase access to information and services leading to health enhancing behaviour change. This is especially promising in increasingly connected urban centres and cities.

In 2016, recognizing the powerful link between the urban environment (SDG11) and good health (SDG3), global leaders signed The Shanghai Healthy Cities Declaration, a commitment to unlock the full potential of cities to promote health.

Through this declaration, more than 100 mayors committed to ten Healthy City action areas including the delivery of basic needs to residents (education, housing, employment and security), eliminating pollution and tackling climate change, investing in children, making the environment safe for girls and women, improving the health and quality of life of the urban poor, informal settlement dwellers, migrants and refugees, addressing multiple forms of discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS or disabilities, making cities safe from infectious disease, designing cities to promote sustainable urban mobility, implementing sustainable and safe food policies and making the environment smoke free.

Hackathon Brief

Goal / Purpose

  • Address and support global health solutions focused on middle-to lower income countries
    • Address common environmental issues that impact health and wellness
    • Provide information and education to address health awareness
    • Encourage positive behaviour change that optimizes health and wellness
  • Develop actionable technology-enabled solutions

Recruitment Criteria

  • The WSIS Hack for Health is open to individuals pursuing an undergraduate or a post-graduate degree with specific emphasis on health, science, computer science, design, engineering, ICT and other related fields.

  • Teams should consist of a minimum of three people and maximum of seven people.

  • Teams should promote gender equality.

  • As possible, the teams should encompass both technical and functional competencies.

  • Age 18–35

How to participate

  1. Register to the WSIS Forum here.

  2. Register for the Hack for Health Hackathon here.

Presented by

WSIS Forum, organized in association with ITU and IEEE in collaboration with Be He@lthy, Be Mobile (ITU-WHO)

Hackathon Challenge

Develop an innovative digital solution to reduce exposure to common risk factors for non-communicable diseases in smart, healthy cities in middle-and lower-income countries. This solution can be a mobile application, web application, computer game, game for mobile devices, or other visualization tools or technology applications to address some of the challenges.

Example challenges:

  • Awareness

    • Discerning water purity

    • Proper Nutrition

    • Personal hygiene

    • General wellness and well-being awareness

    • Disease awareness

  • Behaviour

    • Finding Clean Water

    • Reducing intake of harmful substances

    • Creating health and financial incentives to drive behaviour change

    • Empowering individuals to make healthier choices

Example solution prompts:

  • An application combined with sensors that help track and reward the adoption of an active alternative to get around the home or city (walk, bike, stairs) rather than a passive (drive, bus, elevator) method.

  • A solution that helps a user identify healthy alternatives by scanning labels and comparing across a database of products (e.g. smart shopping cart for diabetic): could include a salt filter, a sugar filter, a fat filter etc.

  • An application that uses crowd-sourcing and geo-location to report on quality, reliability, availability of food products in farmer’s open markets using ratings, rankings, pictures and geo-localization.

  • An application that helps users transition high fat, sugar or calorie home-made dish (or an unhealthy eat-out option), into a healthier alternative, leveraging big data (calorie and ingredient converters), crowd-sourcing methods (recipes, photos, video tips and tricks) and other data.