They designed a Snapchat-style nutrition app with their grandparents’ diet in mind
Most digital nutrition programs are for young adults who strive to establish healthy eating habits as they begin to navigate the world independently. But that doesn’t mean that older people can’t get help either.
This is the thinking that led a team of students from the North East to make geriatric nutrition the topic of this year. Husky Health Innovation Challenge. In the case of a competition, organized by the health innovation club Vital, student teams showcased original digital solutions to help geriatric patients meet their nutritional needs in just two weeks last month. It all culminated on March 27 in a one-day event – Pitch Day – reminiscent of the Shark Tank TV show, with finalist teams presenting their business plans to a panel of judges who then rank the best proposals.
Among this year’s main proposals were a Snapchat-style app to help users plan and track their meals, a voice assistant system to connect users with nutritional support, and a subscription-based snack box tailored to nutritional needs. individual of each client.
“Nutrition is a major factor that plays into many chronic health problems as well as many other conditions that people experience older in their lives that can dramatically change their quality of life,” says Elisa Danthinne, Industrial Engineer at fifth year. student at Northeastern, who is the director of special events at the Health Innovation Club and led the challenge planning team.
This year, the Husky Health Innovation Challenge was not just for Huskies. The student-run competition has been expanded to include undergraduates from across the Boston area.
There are no opportunities like the Husky Health Innovation Challenge specifically for undergraduates in the Boston area, says Danthinne. “We wanted to model our competition from what the academic institutions were doing,” and make the competition more collaborative and accessible to all undergraduates starting with the first competition in 2019, she says. But it wasn’t until this year, when college life moved online and his team had two previous competitions under their belt, that the challenge was expanded.
And that was quite the turnout. Representing eight different schools, 87 students took part in the third Husky Health Innovation Challenge, compared to 23 and 25 in the first two competitions.
“I think it pushed us a lot more than if it was just in Northeastern,” says Eva Kuruvilla, a sophomore student at Northeastern who studies cell and molecular biology and health systems engineering. “It also made second place more rewarding.”
Kuruvilla was part of a team from the Northeast who came up with a business plan for a telehealth platform the team called Eat well, who placed second in the competition. The app, designed for seniors, provides users with personalized nutritional recommendations, printable grocery plans that take into account local store options, personalized communication with a dietician, personal food diary, and weekly questionnaires about health.
The proposed venture would also incorporate partnerships with other organizations that provide food delivery, nutritional supplements, companionship and volunteers to help with tasks such as grocery shopping. To better support the most vulnerable populations, EatRight’s funding model would be Medicare-based.
The team that placed first in the competition was made up of students from Boston University. They launched a voice-activated system supporting older adults in nutrition and strengthening social bonds for dietary responsibility.
“It was a great experience,” says Ben Reydler, a junior business administration student at the BU “I thought it was hosted by an organization, it was so professional, all the emails, the whole strategy of mark, and I come to Pitch Day and it’s all student-run and I’m like, “This is awesome”. The experience prompted him to start something similar to BU, he says.
The challenge not only fostered friendly rivalries between universities, it also served as a way to bring Boston-area college students together. “We tried to match people in all the schools in order to foster collaborations and not feel like we were pitting schools against each other,” says Megha Gupta, a fourth year neuroscience student at Northeastern. who led the external communications. and the awareness-raising effort of the team organizing the challenge.
But for a team, this inter-collegiate collaboration came naturally. Elizabeth Si, a freshman at Northeastern studying political science and economics, has not heard of the competition through her own host university. Shreya Nair, a freshman at Harvard University, spotted the announcement and immediately thought about the opportunity to work with her longtime friend. The two teamed up, recruited another classmate from Nair, and they placed third – as the only fully freshman team among the finalists.
Their proposal, Sage snacks, is a monthly delivery of snacks selected to meet the nutritional needs of individual customers. The box would contain a wide variety of snacks to help eaters expand their own options and an information card detailing the nutritional value and contextualizing that information based on how it benefits their bodies. But the service wouldn’t end there. The company is also reportedly hosting monthly virtual group meals so members can socialize with each other to alleviate loneliness and hold eaters accountable.
The top three teams have all won cash prizes that challenge organizers hope will help make those ideas a reality. But, says Christopher Han, a fourth-year neuroscience major at Northeastern and executive director of ViTAL, the goal of the competition is simply to get students to think about geriatric nutrition and practice making a business plan. and an argument.
“You can’t solve the issue of geriatric nutrition in just one case,” Han says. “But I think just being able to think big, think ahead and understand that you certainly won’t have all the answers, but you absolutely have to try … And any effort to improve health care is a good one.” effort.”
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