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They’re Off!

September 5, 2013

The Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) mHealth Grand Tour is underway, kicking off from Brussels on September 5. It is a 13-day cycling challenge from Brussels to Barcelona to raise awareness of diabetes and demonstrate the potential of mobile health (mHealth) solutions. The tour will arrive in Barcelona on September 18, after 2,100km and 22,000m of climbs. AJPM editor-in-chief Kevin Patrick is distraught that he could not rearrange his schedule to allow him to join this year’s ride.Einstein

Nearly 26 million children and adults in the U.S. have diabetes, and another 79 million Americans are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. In Europe, 55 million people are living with the disease, and about 10% of the overall European Union annual healthcare expenditure is being spent on diabetes. By 2030, the World Diabetes Foundation estimates 438 million people, nearly 7.8% of the adult population, will be afflicted.

An interesting element of the mHealth Grand Tour is a first-of-its-kind observational study into the effects of multi-day endurance exercise on blood glucose levels, using data captured and transmitted wirelessly through a multi-vendor mHealth solution. The study will track the health and cycling performance data of athletes with type 1 diabetes, as well as cyclists without diabetes.

The study was designed by Professor Michael Trenell, National Institute for Health Research senior research fellow, and director of MoveLab at Newcastle University. He notes that although we know how important physical activity is in managing all types of diabetes, there is paucity of published research on the physiology of how this works. The bike tour presented him with a good opportunity to conduct research, using an innovative mHealth application that functions wirelessly without intrusion into the riders’ performance.

 The world is spending approximately $6 trillion each year on health care, and it is argued that the widespread use of mobile connectivity in health care could significantly cut costs, increase the accessibility of healthcare services, and reduce the impact of illness on people’s lives. For example, it has been estimated that $175–$200 billion in chronic disease management costs could be saved annually by remote monitoring solutions.

 Mobile health solutions are promoted as a way to assist healthcare providers deliver better, consistent, and more efficient care, and to empower individuals to manage their own health more effectively. Patients will have access to automatic health monitoring and might achieve a higher level of prevention through continuous care and lifestyle coaching. Providers will have access to better information about a patient’s condition and lifestyle, and could achieve earlier intervention and more cost-effective treatment. There is also the promise of improved communications with patients and more efficient use of clinicians’ time.

An arduous bike tour through stunning countryside is a wonderful way to focus attention on a serious disease, and to conduct a potentially valuable mHealth study into the bargain. And if it is repeated next year, Dr. Patrick will almost certainly be joining the peloton.

—   Michael Lytton, AJPM Blog Editor

Further reading in AJPM:

Lawlor MS, Blackwell CS, Isom SP, et al. Cost of a Group Translation of the Diabetes Prevention Program: Healthy Living Partnerships to Prevent Diabetes. Am J Prev Med 2013;44(4):S381–8.

Brown BB, Smith KR, Hanson H, Fan JX, Kowaleski-Jones L, Zick CD. Neighborhood Design for Walking and Biking: Physical Activity and Body Mass Index. Am J Prev Med 2013;44(3):231–8.

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