In June 2012, we launched Phase 1 of the My Air, My Health Challenge seeking to spur the development of personal devices that gather and integrate health and air quality data that is usable and meaningful to long-term health outcomes. Sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) [Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)], four finalists were announced today to proceed to Phase 2, which entails building and testing a prototype sensor device and offers a $100,000 award to the winner. We recently spoke with Dr. David Balshaw, Program Director for Emerging Technologies at NIEHS, about the Challenge.
Hello Dr. Balshaw. Thank you for joining us today and congratulations on the successful conclusion of Phase 1. Taking us back, what were your original goals for this Challenge and how do you envision that the solutions currently being proposed will address the issue of airborne pollutants and their associated health risks?
In the environmental health research community, we always struggle with our ability to make direct connections between exposure to environmental pollutants and physiological responses at the individual level. While there have been a number of emerging technologies for exposure assessment as well as physiological monitoring, we haven’t seen many efforts to integrate these two capabilities. Combining the analyses of these data streams would improve those linkages. Ultimately, we wanted to see what creative solutions the community could come up with!
Over the last few years, crowdsourcing and prize competitions have become an increasingly popular means for government to innovate and promote strong public-private partnerships. What was your impetus for employing a crowdsourced competition model to achieve your goals for this Challenge?
The Challenge mechanism has really demonstrated an ability to bring innovative ideas into a new field. We thought this problem was an excellent fit because there are so many new technologies out there. Groups didn’t need to put a lot of resources into engineering, and there was a high likelihood of getting a useful device out at the end.
Phase 1 of the My Air, My Health Challenge attracted over 500 Solvers and generated dozens of solution submissions. What are your thoughts on the overall quality of the responses that you received? Read more