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Environmental Factor, January 2012

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mHealth Summit highlights advances in mobile health technology

By Ryan Campbell

mHealth Summit Logo
Chip Hughes and Cesar Bandera, Ph.D.

Hughes, left, and Bandera talked in front of the WETP poster about Cell Podium’s services for just-in-time training for emergency incidents. Information messages and videos can be broadcast to individuals who need information, just at the time they need it, to respond to an emergency or learn about their health. (Photo courtesy of Chip Hughes)

David Balshaw, Ph.D.

Balshaw oversees EBP grants that, among other things, are dramatically improving the quality and reducing the size of personal monitoring devices that can warn of exposures to hazardous agents and communicate real-time information about exposure to researchers. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Ryan Campbell and Dusty Russell

MDB employees Ryan Campbell, left, and Dusty Russell, worked the NIEHS display in the NIH Pavilion at the mHealth Summit. (Photo courtesy of Chip Hughes)

Representatives from NIEHS and the National Clearinghouse for Worker Safety and Health Training joined more than 3,500 leaders from technology, business, research, and policy communities around the world to engage in constructive dialogue about the role of mobile health technologies in the 21st Century, at the 2011 mHealth Summit Dec. 5-7, 2011, in Washington, D.C.

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Representing NIEHS at the meeting were staff from the NIEHS Worker Training Program (WETP) and the Division of Extramural Research and Training.

Smart phones with internet capabilities have changed the way in which people manage their health. mHealth delivers on-the-go health information to smart phones via applications and Internet-based Web pages. mHealth can teach someone how to eat a healthy diet, manage diabetes, choose a doctor, or quit smoking. In 2011, smart phones accounted for more than half of cell phone sales, so the possibility of disseminating health information and managing an individual’s health has limitless potential.

This year’s summit featured keynote speakers Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Regina Benjamin, M.D., the U.S. surgeon general. “When we talk about mobile health, we are talking about taking the biggest technology breakthrough of our time and using it to take on one of the greatest national challenges of our time,” Sebelius said in her keynote address. The three-day event included fourteen concurrent themed track sessions covering a wide range of mobile health topics related to business, policy, research, and technology.

The NIEHS presence at mHealth

David Balshaw, Ph.D., NIEHS program administrator for the NIH Genes, Environment, and Health Initiative Exposure Biology Program (EBP), led a session and presented research about recent technological advancements related to monitoring environmental exposures that interact with a genetic variation to result in human disease. The presentation included demonstrations of monitoring devices to aid in minimizing human exposure to health-impairing pollutants.

“The term mHealth may be vague but there is no refuting the tremendous progress being made along technological fronts,” explained Cesar Bandera, Ph.D., a WETP grantee and developer of the Cell Podium mobile multimedia messaging service, who presented a poster in conjunction with the National Library of Medicine and NIEHS. “The Summit also conveyed an increased focus on system integration, such that mobile devices operate within a process involving the patient, care provider, and payer.” Bandera presented his research, illustrating the functions and utilization of mobile technology, during the poster session at the summit.

The National Clearinghouse for Worker Safety and Health Training had an opportunity to network and provide information and outreach at the NIEHS information booth in the mHealth exhibitor’s hall. Clearinghouse staff also answered summit attendee questions about NIEHS, its programs, and its development of mobile health technologies.

(Ryan Campbell is on the staff of MDB, a contractor for the WETP and NIEHS Superfund Research Program.)

Funding opportunity

A recent Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) issued Dec. 5, 2011, solicits Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) for novel technologies that are field-deployable and lab-based, highlighting the NIEHS commitment to mHealth.

“There is an urgent need for mobile technology development, to identify exposures within communities and to relay health and safety information in a timely manner,” said Chip Hughes, director of the NIEHS Worker Education and Training Program.

Grantees, such as Bandera, have demonstrated the potential of multimedia messaging in patient education. Through a grant from NIEHS, and in conjunction with the NIEHS Center for Environmental Exposures and Disease at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Cell Podium broadcasts videos on breast cancer and the environment, on a weekly basis to cell phone users who sign up for a subscription via email at

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