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29-08-2012 | Article

Call for apps to combat cancer among underserved women

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medwireNews: A cool $ 85,000 will be awarded to the software developer who comes up with the best mobile application (app) for narrowing a race and gender disparity in cancer awareness.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced a "Reducing Cancer Among Women of Color App Challenge." The goal of the challenge is to reach women in racial and ethnic minority groups who may not get health information through traditional media, according to an HHS statement.

"It's important for women to have information about what they can do to prevent or treat cancer," said David Hunt (HHS Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Washington, DC). "Through the use of smartphone and computer apps, women and the community health workers on whom they depend for healthcare information will be able to have information they need - and in many cases, at their fingertips."

In 2007, US cancer death rates were higher among African Americans, at 216.3 per 100,000, compared with 177.1 per 100,000 for Whites, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

The HHS notes that prevalence and mortality rates for breast, cervical, uterine, and ovarian cancer are high among minority and underserved women due to disparities in preventive care, access to early treatment, and quality of care.

"By providing the right information at the right time, mobile apps can help minority and underserved women make informed decisions about their own health and benefit from the recommended preventive services provided at no cost under the healthcare law," said J. Nadine Gracia, HHS acting deputy-assistant secretary for minority health.

The Affordable Care Act stipulates that women's preventive healthcare services such as mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, prenatal care, and other services must be covered by health insurance plans with no deductibles or co-payments from patients.

The HHS challenge calls on software developers to create programs that provide information directly to women at high risk for breast, cervical, uterine, and ovarian cancers and to women already diagnosed with these cancers. The winning app must be able to securely interface with electronic health records while maintaining patient privacy, explains the HSS statement.

By Neil Osterweil, medwireNews reporter