The medical Internet of Things, health jobs of the future, and how to prepare your clinic for the big data revolution.
FoodSwitch is a public health project whose success illustrates the power of big data analytics and the potential of research charities becoming self-funding.
Australia’s George Institute for Global Health is responsible for a swathe of successful public health initiatives including the high profile FoodSwitch app which uses smartphone technology to help shoppers make healthier choices in the supermarket.
Established in 1999 in Sydney, The George Institute is a world-leading medical research institute. It has raised more than $750 million for research into chronic diseases and injury and has over 600 staff globally.
The Institute’s portfolio of projects ranges from preventative programs to clinical studies into the safest and best ways to treat and prevent the leading causes of death and disability, such as stroke, heart and kidney diseases and diabetes.
Using big data to raise research revenue
Raising money to support its research and advocacy programs at home and abroad is an ongoing challenge and the Institute has recently turned its attention to making its innovative FoodSwitch programme financially self-sustainable.
Developed with the support of health insurance fund Bupa, FoodSwitch is a health project that collects, curates and analyses data on the foods sold in a country. The FoodSwitch consumer app analyses food packaging labels and suggests healthier options for a shopper and allows users to set customised priorities, such as identifying products lower in salt or sugar, or which are gluten free. The programme has been highly successful, illustrating the power and potential of big data to both consumers and industry.
The Institute has launched FoodSwitch at a time when national obesity epidemics are putting pressure on public health budgets in Australia and other developed countries – 63 per cent of Australian adults and 25 per cent of Australian children are overweight or obese, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
The FoodSwitch app has been downloaded more than 750,000 times in Australia and localised versions have been launched in New Zealand, South Africa, the UK, China and India.
While the app is free for consumers, The George Institute has been able to monetise the project, with a growing number of manufacturers and retailers willing to pay for access to its repository of food-related data, according to the managing director of FoodSwitch, Fraser Taylor.
“Understanding nutritional value and where their products sit in the market can influence how manufacturers develop and re-engineer products and the choices retailers make around the range of products they stock,” Taylor says.
“If companies and organisations want to access our food data for commercial reasons, we’re happy to sell it to them. Our goal is for the FoodSwitch program to become self-funding. We’re not there yet but we do believe more companies will be willing to pay to access this data.”
“We’re always looking for new and innovative ways to raise the money we need to support our work to improve the health of people around the world. Collaborations and partnerships are also key to this,” Taylor says.