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The Healthy Behaviour Data Challenge: Calling for innovations to track non-traditional public health data

Posted on June 12, 2017 by Timothy Luk and Shahab Shahnazari

Traditionally, public health data are collected at the institutional or local level using a variety of methods including self-reported surveys, telephone interviews or online questionnaires. This information is then transferred to a regional authority before reaching a central, nationwide repository for aggregation and analysis.

Although this structure and process are well established and form an essential foundation for monitoring public health, challenges associated with methods of data collection as well as delays between collection at the local level and centralized generation of insight can limit its effectiveness. This can then hamper responsiveness and may reduce an organization’s ability to recognize, monitor and react to emerging national-level trends.

To address this gap, MaRS Discovery District (MaRS) with support from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), has launched the $165,000 Healthy Behaviour Data Challenge. Aimed at expanding the diversity and scope of data currently used for public health monitoring, the competition challenges innovators of all backgrounds to identify and test non-traditional data and data sources for use in measurement of indicators of physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep.

Visit the ImagineNationChallenge.ca website to learn about Infoway’s own Data Impact Challenges, which helped inspired to launch the Healthy Behaviour Data Challenge after reviewing Infoway’s successful Challenge strategy and approach.


Participants in the challenge are invited to develop ideas and concepts during the first phase with up to nine finalists selected for participation in the prototyping and testing second phase. Up to three phase 2 winners will then have the opportunity to explore integration of their prototype into public health practice at PHAC.

The diversity of non-traditional data sources and collection methods provides a rich set of options from which public health organizations and others can select and augment their current processes. But it can be difficult for a single organization to review and select those that apply to their specific context, create solutions, test them and ultimately integrate them. It is only through collaboration with other innovators and by tapping into their collective expertise that creative solutions can be found.

The Challenge is now open and the submission deadline is August 4, 2017.

For more information on how to apply, visit the Healthy Behaviour Data Challenge website.

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tim lukTimothy Luk

Timothy Luk is a Project Manager on the MaRS Data Catalyst team, working on health data initiatives. He manages projects that enable access to consumers’ health information, enable new digital health solutions to come to market, and redefine how novel data sources can support public health monitoring and interventions. He is a Project Management Professional.

Shahab Shahnazari bioShahab Shahnazari

Shahab Shahnazari leads MaRS Data Catalyst’s work in the health space. Managing the MyHealth initiative, Shahab is working with a multi-disciplinary team to create an innovation platform that will give consumers control over their health data and allow them to share it with products and services that can support them in meeting their health and wellness goals.

How is your personal data being used? Read Infoway chief privacy officer Abigail Carter-Langford’s blog post on the… https://t.co/TZFn8rWvrc

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