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Student Team Wows DPH Board with Mobile App

January 27, 2014

They are the youngest group of people to address Georgia’s Board of Public Health –four tenth graders from Meadowcreek High School in Norcross, Ga. – and they did not disappoint.  The young women presented their winning mobile health app to board members during the January meeting.  Avneet Sethi, Biridiana Macias, Plabani Sharif and Brenda Gutierrez, or Team Flabbergastics as they are also known, took first place in the Health IT Student Innovation Award contest.

Team Flabbergastics members Plabani Sharif, Biridiana Macias, team advisor Pintu Thaker, Brenda Gutierrez and Avneet Sethi

The contest was part of an innovative partnership between the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), the Technology Association of Georgia Education Collaborative, Inc. (TAG-Ed), the Georgia Department of Education, and the Verizon Foundation.  The Health IT Student Innovation Award contest challenged students to develop a healthy lifestyle mobile application that connects Georgians with information and resources on preventing childhood obesity, and the opportunity to develop the official mobile applications for Georgia SHAPE, Gov. Nathan Deal’s statewide comprehensive childhood fitness and nutrition program.

The students created Gogo Health, a mobile app designed to connect Georgians to healthy lifestyles and to help address childhood obesity in Georgia. The app includes links to healthy recipes, videos demonstrating exercises, facts about obesity and its effects on health and other resources to help educate users. Connections to Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites allow users to share the information in the app with others.

“Mobile app technology connects us with more real-time, relevant information than ever before. And we know our young people are already learning and conversing in this mobile environment,” said DPH Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. “If anyone understands how to make the connection between technology and childhood obesity, it’s our young people.”

Georgia ranks 17th in the nation for childhood obesity, third in the nation for prevalence of overweight children, and 10th nationally when combining both factors. Recently, Georgia SHAPE launched “Power Up for 30,” a public outreach initiative to promote 30 minutes of additional physical activity in every Georgia elementary school. 

Sethi said she and her teammates learned about childhood obesity in a health class at school. As the team learned more about obesity, they realized it was especially important to reach their peers with important health information.

Thirty teams from around the state submitted entries that were judged by 75 business, technology, health care and education professionals. The apps were judged on seven criteria: ease of use/design, promotion of ongoing user engagement, relevance of content, creativity, application of technology, integration of technology and proper submission of project.

”The statistics were surprising – high levels of overweight teens,” Sharif said.

The team’s presentation delighted board members, prompting Chair Kathryn Cheek, M.D., to ask attendees to give the team a standing ovation.

“I think we are all overwhelmed by the amazing work and talent of these young people,” Cheek said.

For their work, Team Flabbergastics received a $1,500 cash prize for their school, along with cell phones for each of the four students.