As with any large problem, if it were easily solvable, it wouldn’t be a “grand challenge.” When attempting to tackle the problem of improving nutrition to combat disease and obesity, there are many different aspects of the problem that are in need of a solution. One solution would be to create an individualized health plan for each person on Earth. However, each potential solution creates more new questions than answers. What if a person does not have access to a qualified individual who can give them a health plan? What if a person does not have access to a variety of food types? What if a culture or religion restricts the diet of a person? How does the geographic region the person lives in affect the types of food they have access to? This is but one of example of how many difficult questions must be answered to reach a potential solution. Another solution considered by our group was to create an application that can help individually assess and quantify the health of a person. While this would be an incredible breakthrough, our group felt that we did not have the in depth knowledge and experience in our fields necessary to take on this solution at this point in time.
Through our research, our group realized that on the physiological and biological side, only a relatively small amount of information has been obtained due to the restrictive nature of the research tools currently available. However, since there is so much more to be learned about nutrition and its associated diseases, research must and surely will continue in these area. Of the information available, scientists and doctors are able to draw a general idea of how different molecules and food types affect our health and lead to different diseases. The drawback is that many of the studies are done epidemiologically due to the blunt edge tools that are available to study such a complex system. In other words, there are so many different variables such as lifestyle, genetics, environment, culture, etc. that affect an individuals health that it is nearly impossible to pinpoint how one type of food intake impacts an individuals overall health without also having to consider all the other variables. As far as we can tell, it is incredibly difficult to study human health in any other way, so we instead decided to focus our efforts on how generally accepted health standards, particularly in the United States, are communicated on various levels and how the communication can be improved to avoid alternative interests that have a negative impact on the health of the general population.
In the world of Apple and other technological hand held devices that we live in today, our group realized that perhaps the simplest and most efficient way to improve communication about nutrition is in the form of an app. There are many health and nutrition apps that already exist (including a very comprehensive Apple built-in health app), but most of these apps involve tracking calories or other nutritional inputs while pulling from generalized data bases or recommendations. While our app would be quite similar to existing apps in many ways, there are a few differences that would make our app more innovative and relevant to solving our grand challenge, while also improving health communication. Our app would ideally involve the assembling of a governmentally funded team including clinicians, nutritionists, food professionals, governmental officials, and app developers. All parties involved would need to combine their knowledge to create an effective app, and therefore the app would aid in improving the communication between said parties.
Check out the top tab on the right to see a detailed outline of what the app would include. Also, explore the three other tabs to the right to look at more detailed analyses of the three main interfaces we feel exist in this grand challenge and how the app may help to address each one. For more information on these interfaces, take a look at our in-class assignment that dealt with interfaces. In addition, there is a tab that describes an alternative solution that we were unable to implement this semester but that we hope to see implemented in the future.