HHS Sponsors Contest for Facebook Personal Preparedness Applications

Federal officials are challenging software application developers to design new Facebook applications to help people prepare for emergencies and get support from friends and family after an emergency strikes – from personal medical emergencies to natural or man-made disasters.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) issued the ASPR Lifeline Facebook Application Developer Challenge in collaboration with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a health-focused online community of developers, designers, patients, providers, health care organizations that promotes health technology innovation.

The online challenge runs throughout National Preparedness Month in September and the remainder of the 2011 hurricane season, closing Nov. 4.

“After disasters, a tremendous number of people use Facebook to post and share information,” said Assistant Secretary Nicole Lurie, M.D., a rear admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service. “We’re challenging our country’s most innovative developers to create apps that help people use Facebook not only to reach out to friends and family for any kind of help they may need after emergency but also to become better prepared in the first place.”

The person or team developing the best application will receive $10,000 from HHS and free admission from Health 2.0 to the 2012 Health 2.0 conference, and will be invited to an HHS event with Dr. Lurie. Second place will be awarded $5,000, and third place will receive $1,000.

While most tools take months or years to roll out, the first place challenge winner will work with the U.S. government and Facebook immediately to get the application into use just weeks after selection.

Submissions will be judged on the application’s ability to enhance community connections and improve individual preparedness. The goal is an app that enables a Facebook user to invite three Facebook friends to become lifelines, points of contact who agree to act as a source of support during disasters such as providing transportation, a place to stay or anything else the Facebook friend may need.

The ideal application includes a way for users to identify lifelines, to create and share a personal preparedness plan including health considerations with these lifelines, and to encourage others to use the application. Additional considerations include being easy to use on basic mobile devices, incorporating Geographic Information System (GIS) locating or tagging, and connecting with other social media and emergency relief technologies.

All submissions will be reviewed by judges from Facebook, ASPR, FEMA, and the New Orleans Health Commissioner.

To register as a participant in the ASPR Lifeline Facebook Application Developer Challenge, visit https://challenge.gov/challenges/220, or https://www.health2challenge.org/2011/07/12/the-aspr-lifeline-facebook-application-challenge/.

Federal employees, federal contractors, and recipients of federal grants may not participate in the challenge using time paid by federal funds. Winners must be U.S. citizens, permanent U.S. residents or businesses incorporated in and maintaining their primary place of business in the United States.

The HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response coordinates the federal public health and medical response to disasters, leading the nation in preventing, preparing for, and responding to the adverse health effects of public health emergencies and disasters.

ASPR focuses on preparedness planning as well as response; building federal emergency medical operational capabilities; countermeasures research, advance development, and procurement; and grants to strengthen the capabilities of hospitals and health care systems in public health emergencies and medical disasters.

To learn more about ASPR, visit www.phe.gov.

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