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Wednesday
Feb202013

CDC Turns from Zombies to ‘Outbreak’ with iPad App

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the folks who brought the world a controversial zombie apocalypse campaign, has launched a free iPad app that lets users play a game to stem a fictitious epidemic.

Users of the app, called “Solve the Outbreak,” can pretend they’re a public health detective by taking steps such as quarantining a village, asking for more lab results and interviewing sick people.  Good problem-solving skills are rewarded by high points and badges.

“We look at this as an engaging opportunity to educate young people to how public health actually works, and hopefully to draw some future epidemiologists,” CDC spokesman Alex Casanova told ABC News.

The app was developed in-house and cost $110,000 to develop, minus salaries, and so far it’s been downloaded about 2,000 times, he said.  The goal is to get between 15,000 and 25,000 downloads in a year.

The game is the CDC’s latest attempt to use pop culture to entice the public to prepare for a major outbreak.  In May 2011, the CDC unveiled a zombie-themed campaign, which included downloadable zombie-themed posters and a novella called “Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic.”

The agency called the campaign “tongue-in-cheek,” but later, after a string of grisly violent incidents, the CDC had to make an official statement saying there’s no evidence of a coming zombie apocalypse.

An agency official told ABC News in September that the zombie idea came after Twitter users responded to the agency’s question about what type of disasters they were prepared for.

“It can be tough to get people thinking about emergency preparedness before disaster strikes.  We’ve created these zombie posters to spark some attention and get people involved before it’s too late,” the CDC said in a statement at the time.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jan192013

Smartphone Apps Can Fall Short in Detecting Skin Cancer, Study Finds

(PITTSBURGH) -- Relying on health-care smartphone apps to detect skin cancer can postpone diagnosis and cause harm, a new study has found.

When researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center tested four popular apps for detecting melanoma -- the most serious form of skin cancer -- they found that on average three of them incorrectly classified 30 percent or more melanomas. The findings were published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association-Dermatology.

Of the 188 moles the researchers studied, 60 of them had already been diagnosed as melanoma by a board-certified dermatologist. The study found that the accuracy of the apps varied drastically -- the best-performing apps diagnosed cancerous moles correctly 98.1 percent of the time, while the worst-performing detected melanoma only 6.8 percent of the time.

Typically, in employing these apps, users photograph the skin lesions they would like analyzed, and the app generates a response.

"Patients do bring these in and ask about them," Dr. Darrell Rigel, clinical professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center, told ABC News. "I tell them that the difference between these and 'real' in-office melanoma diagnostic devices is the difference of a toy car versus a real car. One you play with, and the other works."

The app with the highest sensitivity for melanoma detection, the study found, did not use automated algorithms to analyze the images. Instead, the images were sent to board-certified dermatologists, and users received a diagnosis within 24 hours.

None of these apps, though, are not subject to regulatory oversight, and although disclaimers state they are for educational purposes only -- to help users track their lesions, for example -- dermatologists worry that people, particularly those who are lower-income and uninsured, might substitute the apps' findings for medical advice.

"It is very concerning that these apps are used for diagnosis by patients, as it could lead to delay in diagnosis of melanoma, the cancer which is perhaps the most critical in early diagnosis being important for survival," said Rigel.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has responded to the explosion of health-related smartphone apps and announced in July 2011 plans to regulate smartphone apps that paired with medical devices the agency already regulates, such as cardiac monitors and radiologic imaging devices. In 2012, Congress passed the FDA Safety and Innovation Act, allowing the FDA to regulate some medical apps on smartphones. But which apps will come under this regulation and which will not remains unclear.

Given their accessibility, these apps could hold tremendous potential once they have been evaluated, said Dr. Meg R. Gerstenblith, an assistant professor in the department of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University.

"If a patient were insistent on using one of these apps," said Gerstenblith, "I would inform him/her that the current study suggests that those apps that involve a board-certified dermatologist evaluating images of lesions may be superior to those that do not employ a board-certified dermatologist to evaluate the lesions."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar022012

Phone App Uses Men to Remind Women of Breast Cancer Checks

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(TORONTO) -- A sexy smartphone app that reminds women to check their breasts has raised eyebrows and cancer awareness too.

The app, called Your Man Reminder, lets users pick the "hot guy of their choice" to remind them to check their breasts for signs of cancer.

"We wanted a way for young women to be reminded to be familiar with their breasts in a fun, cute way that would not spark fear and go viral," said Alison Gordon, vice president of strategic marketing and communications for the Canadian charity Rethink Breast Cancer. "It really centers on early detection. We want to make sure young women know what their breasts look and feel like regularly and check with their doctors if they find anything unusual."

One in eight American women will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society, and the chance of dying from breast cancer is about one in 36. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends mammograms every two years for women between the ages of 50 and 75. But for younger women -- the demographic targeted by Rethink Cancer -- breast changes can signal a problem that should be followed up by a doctor.

"I tell my patients, 'If you see a change, get it checked out,'" said Dr. Therese Bevers, medical director of the Cancer Prevention Center at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. "What kind of change? It doesn't matter. If it's different to you, let's get it checked out."

Your Man Reminder aims to encourage women to think about their breasts so they'll be more likely to notice small changes. A YouTube ad for the app starts with a doctors explaining how "studies have shown that women are more likely to watch a video if it features a hot guy." Then Anthony, one of five hot guys women can choose for their reminder, explains the TLCs of breast checking: Touch; look; and check.

"Start by touching your breasts in any way that feels comfortable for you. Try to be familiar with them, and the way they feel," explains a topless Anthony. "Be on the lookout for anything unusual. And if you want to, have a friend check you out. ... If you notice anything out of the ordinary, even if you're not sure, check with your doctor."

Bevers said the ad had her and her colleagues laughing.

"It's funny, and to the extent that it might increase a woman's awareness about changes in her breast, I think it's great," she said. "But the vast majority of breast cancers that women self-identify are accidentally identified during normal acts of daily living. They're showering or scratching, or putting clothes on."

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends against teaching women breast self-examination – intentionally eying, palpating and squeezing the breasts looking for lumps, redness, dimpling or discharge.

"I think women feel very guilty when they don't do these intentional activities, and I don't think that's a good emotion for these women to have," said Bevers. "And we know from the data that it's not intentional activities that tend to find breast cancers."

Gordon said the app is not promoting breast self-examination, rather encouraging women to get to know their breasts so they can spot changes sooner.

"However you want to be familiar with your breasts, it's up to you," she said. "Whether you're showering or putting on bra, just be aware of your breasts."

Gordon said the app lets users choose how they want their hot guy reminder: Monthly; weekly; or "surprise me."

"In the past, health information was always pamphlets. You'd pick one up, maybe read it and then shove it in a drawer," said Gordon. "Now everyone has phone on them all the time, so you get this pop up and it's cute and you can share it with friends through Facebook. We can take these important health messages so much further than we ever could have before."

The Toronto-based advertising agency John St. produced Your Man Reminder pro bono for Rethink Breast Cancer. And on Tuesday, it was among 10 winners at TED's second annual "Ads Worth Spreading" contest.

"The feedback has been incredible," said Gordon. "We have more than 2 million views on YouTube and more than 70,000 app downloads. That's huge. Well, not compared to Angry Birds, but this is not a game."

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep092011

FTC Quashes Acne-Curing Smartphone Apps

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Smartphone apps can do a lot of things but cure acne?  Come on, there's no app for that!

Unfortunately, thousands of acne sufferers, desperate for any kind of relief, have been suckered into believing that two smartphone apps could provide the answer to their skin woes.

One app promised acne removal through blue and red light treatments.  AcneApp, which sold for $1.99 on iTunes, was supposedly developed by a British dermatologist.  The other app, AcnePwner, sold for 99 cents on Android Marketplace.  The tag line was “Kill ACNE with this simple, yet powerful tool!”

These claims caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission, which quickly acted to put a stop to the false propaganda.  

After nearly 15,000 downloads, the FTC got the marketers to "stop making bogus claims." It's the first time the FTC has taken action against a phony health claim by mobile apps.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May042011

A Smart Phone App for Eye Exams?

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- There are thousands of apps for almost everything.  Whatever you want to do, get or find depends on the app that's available on your smartphone, iPhone, Blackberry or Droid.

Now, if it's an eye exam you need -- there's an app for that.  A new smartphone app allows patients to administer different tests, such as reading a digital eye chart, or to snap high resolution images of each eye.

The results are sent to the patient's opthamalogist via email, who is then able to use them to identify vision problems or to detect external diseases, such as corneal ulcers.

Photos of the eye are so clear and detailed, major external changes can be detected.  In fact, some opthamology residents are already using the iPhone to take clinical pictures.

Many experts applaud the smartphone app as very useful screening and diagnostic tool.  Information gained could be crucial in treating triage patients or preparing for emergency situations.  Others caution that remote eye exams are no substitute for thorough examination by a opthamologist.

There are also concerns about security in transmitting confidential personal patients information, and ensuring that the email accounts are monitored regularly and mail dealt with promptly.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Apr132011

Smartphone App Might Make Food Less Appetizing

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Do you really need an app to tell you that certain foods are chock full of calories?

DailyBurn, a fitness social network, thinks you do.  That’s why the company has come up with the MealSnap smarthone app, which informs users of the calorie content of virtually everything they consume.

For instance, let’s say you’re staring at a slice of greasy, double-cheese pizza.  Just snap a photo of the meal in front of you and wait a couple of minutes while the MealSnap matches the picture with half-a-million food items in its data base.

Of course, the pizza might be cold by the time the search is over but you'll have an accurate idea of just how many calories it contains, not to mention fat, carbs and vitamins.

Furthermore, DailyBurn CEO Andy Smith says, “Users can then choose to share what they've eaten on Twitter or FourSquare, leading to social accountability.”

While Smith admits the process can be somewhat time consuming, it allows you to keep a food diary and may spur a psychological change that could get you and your online pals eating better.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar172011

Fire Department App Rallies CPR-Trained Citizens in Emergencies

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(SAN RAMON, Calif.) -- A new iPhone application is making it easier than ever for CPR-trained Good Samaritans to save lives.

Launched by California's San Ramon Fire Protection District, the fire department app alerts CPR-savvy citizens to cardiac emergencies in their areas, with the hope that they'll be able to help out until emergency professionals arrive.

The app was launched in January, but got a big boost this week when San Francisco signed on as the first major city to back the technology.

"What's so important about sudden cardiac arrest is brain death occurs between four and six minutes after your heart stops. Even your best emergency services can take up to five minutes to get to the site of the patient," said Kimberly French, an information officer with the San Ramon Fire Protection District. "It's so important to bridge that gap, because what it does is it stops the clock."

Linking CPR-certified citizens to a local 911 dispatch center helps buy time until professionals can help victims of cardiac arrest, she said.

San Ramon fire officials hatched the idea after a 2009 incident in which the district's fire chief Richard Price (whom locals call "Fire Chief 2.0") was at a deli when, unbenknownst to him, a cardiac emergency was reported next door, French said.

The victim survived, she said, but the incident spurred Price and his peers to figure out how to match people with CPR training to those who need it, in real-time.

When users download the application, they're asked if they're trained in CPR. If they indicate that they are, the app quietly monitors their locations. When 911 dispatchers learn of a cardiac arrest, they can send a text-like push notification to all CPR-trained users of the application who are nearby. The message includes the location of the victim as well as the precise location of the closest public access Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

Since its launch in January, Fire Department has been downloaded more than 30,000 times, French said. But so far only the San Ramon Fire Protection District is using the site.

"The ultimate goal is to make it available for all emergency services to use," French said. "It's too good for us to keep in our little jurisdiction out here in California."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec202010

Stressed? There's an App For That

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Awareness, a new iPhone app launched just last week, allows the ever-stressed -- particularly at holiday time -- to find psychological solace.

The "pocket therapist" application is "like an angel sitting on your shoulder," sounding a gentle chant to remind you to get in touch with your feelings -- anywhere, the developer says.

Ronit Herzfeld, a holistic therapist from New York City, said her creation can help users discover inner peace in the routine of their daily lives.

So far, 550 buyers have downloaded the application, and her developers are working on a new version for Google's Android that could be available in February.

For $3.99 the user is reminded by up to 25 gong tones a day to take a deep breath and assess their mental state. The application asks how you are feeling and, based on your mood, it plays up to 20 videos with instructions on how to alleviate the stressors.

The application also color-codes feelings: red is anger and yellow is fear. A pie chart can show how often you feel those emotions and charts your emotional state and associated triggers over a day, month, week, and year.

The iPhone is not meant to take the place of therapy, said Herzfeld, but for the "ordinary person" it can act as a "diary of feelings" where they can track their behavioral responses to different emotional states such as drinking, binge eating, or overworking.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio