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Stanford conference addresses mobile applications in health care

More than 100 government agencies, healthcare providers and wireless carriers are gathered at Stanford today for the two-day Mobile Health 2010 conference.

During the event, the attendees will discuss how mobile applications can improve individual health behavior, as well as the role of technology in providing timely information on issues such as chronic disease or public health emergencies. Live coverage of the event is being tweeted by Texting4Health and others using the Twitter hashtag #mh2010.

A recent story on CNN profiled conference founder B.J. Fogg, PhD, who directs Stanford's Persuasive Technology Lab, and examined the burgeoning field of mobile health applications:

Before iPhones, Foursquare and Facebook, B.J. Fogg envisioned a mobile fitness device that coaches the user, tracks her location, and shows her friends also exercising at that time.

The concept appeared in Fogg's 1997 dissertation about how computing and psychology can merge to change behavior, and people thought the idea sounded "Star Trek-ish." He went on to found Stanford University's Persuasive Technology Lab, where he began work on mobile applications long before most phones in wide use could support them.

Today, Fogg's ideas that once seemed like science fiction are in widespread use. Anyone can develop a smart phone application designed to influence behavior, and users can choose from a wide array of options to help them do everything from lose weight to sleep better. There are also text-based programs. But Fogg himself isn't in the business of selling iPhone apps; instead, he wants to help health experts and developers pool their knowledge to make effective phone-based health programs.

The sponsors of the conference include the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality.

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