Mobile technology is offering a fast track to sustainable health, by connecting city dwellers to green space and granting easy access to live data on public health.
Our health is closely linked to the wellbeing of the natural resources we draw on day-to-day: the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat… It's no big surprise, then, that lifestyle choices that are good for the environment are often good for our health, too. Commuting by bike or on foot will cut carbon, local air pollution and your waistline. Access to vibrant green space will help keep stress levels under check. Now, mobile technology is offering a fast track to sustainable health. Dedicated apps are proving popular, with over 44 million downloads in 2012 alone. Here are five of our favourites.
1) Gaming once meant hours on computers and couches. Not anymore, and Nexercise is one app to get you moving. Every time you exercise it tracks your progress and awards you points. These can be traded for real prizes, such as sports accessories and energy bars. Co-founder Greg Coleman believes the rewards can incentivise more sustainable lifestyle choices – walking or cycling to work, for instance, instead of travelling by car.
2) Stats of the Union offers information on the health of the US, state by state. You can compare key factors, from access to primary care, to death rates, to green space and pollution. By joining the dots between the quality of the local environment, and the population's wellbeing, it could drive authorities to treat the causes of public health concerns – not just the symptoms.
3) The Urban Green Line app connects people and communities in London to green spaces by encouraging outdoor activities, from sport to guerrilla gardening. There's no shortage of research showing the mental and physical value of time spent enjoying natural surroundings – especially with other people. This interactive app lets you tag green spaces and what you do there, creating communities online and outdoors.
4) Take a picture of the sky and Visibility will give you an immediate local air pollution reading by measuring airborne particulate matter. It works by noting the location and time, and then comparing the intensity of the image with an established model of sky luminance. This personal environmental monitoring tool means people can make informed decisions about where they go – particularly useful for anyone with respiratory issues.
5) Almost 90% of the world's population lives within range of a mobile phone transmitter – and now they will be in range of expert healthcare, too. Developed at MIT, Sana provides a platform that connects patients and rural health workers to medical experts, providing access to high-quality healthcare for those in isolated and developing regions. – Jasmine Kubski
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