Canada and US gov’ts launch open data challenge to better understand public health

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

The Healthy Behaviour Data Challenge, which is taking place in both Canada and the US, invites open data enthusiasts and healthtech innovators to submit ideas for technologies such as wearables and apps designed to improve the collection of health data. The challenge, which has a prize pool of $165,000 for Canadian entrepreneurs, is seeking innovators who can propose and test innovative ways to track, monitor, and gain insights on physical activity, sleep, and inactive behaviour in order to better understand and improve Canadian health.

To run the challenge, the Public Health Agency of Canada is providing approximately $1 million in funding over the next three years to the MaRS Discovery District, which will lead three separate challenges that cover different aspects of health data. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is also providing up to $100,000 in funding to help the data challenge’s winners scale their ideas.

“Data derived from new sources such as wearable technology or social media has enormous potential to support improvements in public health,” said Ilse Treurnicht, CEO of MaRS. “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.”

“We have a unique opportunity to transform traditional public health surveillance and to find the evidence we need to shape action in public health.”

PHAC said the data from new technologies that emerge from this challenge will provide more comprehensive public health information, and allow the government to create programs and policies that improve Canadians’ health and well-being. Specifically, the data will allow key players to provide better advice to patients, tailor prevention programs to specific populations, encourage positive behaviour changes, and identify emerging areas that require public health attention.

“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,” said Jane Philpott, the minister of health and PC MP for Markham-Stouffville. “Our government is committed to encouraging innovative solutions that improve the quality of life of Canadians.”

Canadians interested in participating in the Healthy Behaviour Data Challenge can apply here, and US-based applicants can apply here.

Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi is a staff writer at BetaKit. As a fourth-year journalism student who has written primarily about entrepreneurship, Amira has developed a growing interest in Canadian startup, business, and tech news. In her free time, Amira enjoys reading, baking and watching legal shows.

  • Jerome Lelliott

    Why is Minister Philpott referred to as a PC MP?