2012 GCN AWARDS
SuperTracker app: Healthier living through a data-driven diet
- By Brian Robinson
- Oct 19, 2012
Obesity is at dangerous levels in the United States, contributing to an assortment of diseases and ailments that threaten to overwhelm an already stretched health care system. Health organizations are desperate to find ways to combat this epidemic, and to educate people on how to manage their weight.
In December 2011, the AgricultureDepartment’s Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services launched SuperTracker, an online tool aimed at helping people get a handle on their dietary needs. It also includes a way for them to track how much exercise they are getting, and provides an analysis of how effectively people are combining that with a proper diet.
SuperTracker, available at the USDA’s ChooseMyPlate.gov website, supports the department’s goal of taking new national dietary guidelines, published in January 2011, to as wide an audience as possible. It’s been phenomenally successful already. SuperTracker registered its 1 millionth user in early September, just nine months after its launch.
“It’s part of a very large effort to bring dietary guidelines into homes, schools, restaurants and supermarkets across the country,” said Robert Post, deputy director of the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. “From previous tools, we learned a lot about consumer-friendly approaches, peoples’ motivation, their likelihood of being attracted and continued engagement with the tools.”
SuperTracker allows people to compare the nutritional information of over 8,000 foods and to receive recommendations on how much to eat and the amount of physical exercise they should be getting. It even provides personalized features such as goal setting, virtual coaching and writing daily journals. It draws on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines to help Americans make and assess daily healthy food and lifestyle choices.
(From left: Sarah Chang, Trish Britten, Jackie Haven, Robert Post, Mary Herrup, Angela Leone)
Future activities will be aimed at taking SuperTracker beyond the USDA website and incorporating it into other programs that deal with health and wellness. USDA already has been working with the Office of Personnel Management to use SuperTracker to promote wellness among workers in federal agencies.
Given its consumer orientation, the service has also been getting a lot of attention from other government agencies that are looking for ways to better engage with the public. “The level of personalization that comes with this tool is what other agencies are also looking to create as they build solutions for a world where such things as mobile devices and smart phones are becoming widespread,” Post said.