A fitter, healthier US Army: Pennington researchers create an app for that

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    Researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center have developed an app that is currently being tested by the military and is expected to be an official product of the U.S. Army before the end of the year.

    A consumer version of the app tailored for the general public is expected to become available for use on Apple or Android devices in the next few months.

    Army HEALTH, as the app is called, is the brainchild of Tiffany Stewart, who’s been working on the product for nearly 18 years at PBRC, where she is a clinical psychologist and director of the behavioral health lab.

    HEALTH is an acronym that stands for Healthy Eating Activity Lifestyle Training Headquarter. As the name suggests, the purpose of the app is to provide soldiers with a personalized health and wellness road map that details what they should eat, how much they should sleep, what kind of workouts they should do and how to cope with stress in an effort to optimize their performance under the stressful conditions of training and combat.

    Unlike other apps that promote health and fitness, Army HEALTH is based on years of accumulated data and on hard science that was collected at Pennington thanks to federal grant funding.

    “When we started this work in the early 2000s they didn’t have apps like we think of today; it was all web-based,” Stewart says. “When we told people we were working on web-based interventions they said we were crazy. It would never work.”

    Some 20,000 active duty and reserve personnel have been testing the program in the years since and finding it effective, says Stewart.

    Though Pennington owns the product, the Department of Defense is able to license it at no charge because the development of the app was mostly funded by DoD grants.

    But there’s potentially a lot of opportunity to tailor the app for specific populations within the general public—firefighters or gymnasts, for example—and monetize it that way.

    When it initially becomes available on app stores, Stewart says the product will likely be marketed as HEALTH. Eventually, however, she says the name could be changed to target potential user groups.

    “We have big visions for pivoting this product,” she says.

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