Yesterday, I traveled to the meetings at SXSW in Austin, Texas. I’m attending the interactive session, and you may be able to find me at these events.
Yes, I’ve doubled and triple scheduled some of the time slots, but there is so much going on here in the mobile health space that it is difficult to choose. I’m particularly interested in the session tomorrow (Monday, March 11, 2013) titled “Sensor Technologies: The Future of Health?” The session description opens with “Can you imagine a world in which all your physiologic parameters were measured, monitored, and managed in such a way that that you always maintained perfect health? That world may be just around the corner.” I am intrigued by it, as it may deliver on ½ of the geohealth question: “What are the environmental determinants of human health”? The other half, of course, is sensing of the ambient environment that mediates individual exposures.
These may involve detection of air-borne pollutants, such as benzene, particulate matter, and polyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (a combustion by product); heavy metals such as lead and mercury; and other toxicants and pathogens. Finding these things in our immediate environment does not demonstrate exposure, as exposure routes are needed to get the toxicants into our bodies. These routes are breathing, eating, drinking, and absorption through the skin. A final exposure route is via ionizing radiation, such as x-rays.
But imagine that we can indeed put together near-real time data on physiologic parameters and the ambient environment. Further imagine we do this using wearable, unobtrusive devices that are location enabled so we know just where each reading comes from. This will make possible a new era of citizen science where each of us is a mobile sensor that evaluates individual-level health/environment relationships.
Much like the Audubon society evaluates the status of our nation’s bird populations with its Christmas Bird Count, we can put in place an Annual Baseline Environmental Health Assessment to quantify population-level health exposures. A pipe dream? It is within in our grasp.