NY State Hosts Health Code-a-Thon

December 23, 2013 1:44 pm PST | Data as a Service

By Clare Zimmerman and Chris Whong

Last week, coders, physicians, and health policymakers assembled at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY for the first New York Health Code-a-Thon. The overnight hacking event, hosted by the NY State Department of Health, was part of NY Innovates, a four-day health tech and policy conference. The code-a-thon offered $10,000 in prize money to teams that used open data to address two pressing public health issues: obesity and diabetes.

The event was organized by Health 2.0, a firm that organizes tech challenges exclusively in the field of healthcare. About 30 developers showed up to participate in the challenge, and quickly got to work Wednesday morning, assembling teams and diving head-first into the more than 200 Socrata-powered datasets, charts, and maps on health.data.ny.gov. By mid-morning, several teams were underway building web and mobile apps to help keep New Yorkers Healthier.

While the health hackers were at it, a series of Luminary Talks and panels were held in an adjacent auditorium, covering topics such as “Innovation Trends in Health Tech,” “Unleashing the Power of Open Health Data,” and several New York-specific health data discussions. The talks brought together members of both government and private sector to discuss thoughts on open data in the health space, as well as the theme of the event “Health Connections = Healthy Communities.”

At 11:45 a.m. on Thursday, slide submissions were due from all teams, and they had just a couple more hours to tighten up their presentations and demos. Each team had five minutes to present their work before a panel of judges, consisting of practicing physicians, private-sector health tech innovators and leaders, and public-sector health officials. Before the presentations, Jean-Luc Neptune, VP of Health 2.0, gave an inspiring talk about the value of reward-based challenges, citing the Orteig Prize that led to Charles Lindbergh’s successful transatlantic flight. The top three prize-winning apps from the Code-a-thon are outlined below:

Third Place: DOEFANI (Diabetes and Obesity Education using Franchise and Nutrition Information), a web application, helps users find restaurants in their local area, matching up menu items with calorie counts and nutritional daily percentages, as well as any failed health inspections at that location.

Second Place: ActiveSideKicks, a mobile-enabled web application, allows users to join groups anonymously or with friends and family, to track their exercise and health stats such as height, weight, and blood pressure, and give encouragement to other members of their groups.

First Place: Vera, an SMS-based health robot, prompted a health-focused SMS dialogue with a user, prompting for height and weight info and reporting back with recommendations and reminders to eat healthy.

Introduction speech at the start of the Code-a-Thon by John Norton, Health Cluster CIO, NYS OITS.

NY Health Code-a-Thon

The first place app Vera. 

NY Health Prize 1

The second place app ActiveSidekicks.

NY Health Active Side Kicks 2

The third place app DOEFANI.

NY Health Third Place


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