Digital Health Science Digest – Issue 28

Posted | Posted in Digital Health Science Digest

Snapchat for good, Fitbits for people with serious mental illness, and more in this week’s digest! 

The Digital Health Science Digest is a bimonthly newsletter compiled by Duke Digital Health. We bring you the most interesting research publications, policy news, and other fun digital health science stuff.  

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Issue 28



  • Unrelated question: Do you pretend to know how CareKit works, but really you have no idea how it differs from ResearchKit or HealthKit or AnyOtherKit? Well we have no idea what that feels like, but maybe you could just casually wander over here for no reason at all…
  • You’ve heard of wearables – how about hearables? A company called United Sciences has designed smart, custom-fit earbuds – they can measure steps, calories expended, and even your heart rate! 


  • Feasibility: A study of 11 participants with serious mental illness who were given Fitbits to wear as part of a 6-month lifestyle intervention found that the devices were easy to use, encouraging, and useful. However, participants reported difficulties with understanding and using the companion app to the device. 
  • Outcomes: A 12-week weight loss intervention randomly assigned 301 adults to receive either a “basic” set of tools for dietary and exercise self-monitoring online (logs and some feedback and reminders), or an “enhanced” set of tools (all the basic components plus individualized feedback on self-monitoring and reminders). The participants in the enhanced group had a median consistency for dietary tracking of 8 weeks, compared to 3 in the basic group and 2.5 weeks for exercise, vs. 1 in the basic group. 
  • Review: A systematic review on HIV-related research using social media over the last 10 years found that: Facebook was the most common social media platform used (60% of studies); studies primarily focused on men who have sex with men (MSM) and youth; and that there was little research focused on HIV+ populations. 


  • The food nutrition facts label in the US is getting a makeover! The FDA has made a number of changes to the FDA, one of the biggest is a new requirement for foods to list Added Sugars as a specific nutrient, separate from Sugar. Check out this press release from the White House for more information. 
  • We love this quote from a recent blog post at the Asia Foundation about digital governance: “App creation alone will never offer a comprehensive solution to, say, improved health services, because tackling such a problem also requires public engagement, policy reform, and bureaucratic compliance – each of which is an offline battleground.” #boom #righton #exactly

Grab bag

  • Humans of New York (HONY), a photographer and storyteller, is doing a series with stories from the Pediatrics Department at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. With each post there is a link to donate. The campaign has already raised over $2 million from more than 50,000 unique donors. Follow HONY on Facebook or go here to check out the stories but please take our advice and don’t read them at work if you’re an easy crier. 

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