Searching for Mood/Health Connections with Apple’s ResearchKit

This is a repost of a LinkedIn piece by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation CEO, Risa Lavizzo-Maurey.

 “He who can believe himself well, will be well.” – Ovid

A year ago I reflected here on the launch of Apple’s ResearchKit, a software tool that not only gives people the ability to monitor their health, but to easily share the results with physicians and scientists. It wasn’t hard to imagine how ResearchKit could transform the iPhone into a powerful medical tool that would allow researchers to gather large amounts of data more efficiently and accurately.

It has not disappointed. In late March Sage Bionetworks announced that mPower, its Parkinson’s disease app that works with ResearchKit, already has 12,000 registered users just one year in. That’s a remarkable milestone for a disease that has been diagnosed in some one million people in the United States; it would take years for a clinical trial to recruit that many patients by traditional methods. Other ResearchKit apps are being used to screen for autism, help patients predict seizures, and investigate a myriad of other diseases.

Apple also just unveiled several advancements to ResearchKit, including the integration of genetic data and new medical tests. As Apple COO Jeff Williams said in making the announcement, “the opportunities for iPhone in medical research are endless.”

Among those opportunities is the chance to explore one of the knottiest problems in medicine: the impact of mood on health. Today the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is launching the Mood Challenge for ResearchKit, an innovation competition calling for ResearchKit proposals that will further understanding of mood and how it relates to daily life. The Challenge, funded by RWJF, will award $500,000 and provide finalists with expert mentorship and piloting opportunities.

Since Ovid made the connection more than 2000 years ago, scientists have known that mood is linked to health, but they aren’t sure how the two are related. A 2011 meta-survey of the literature found lots of connections, but none of the studies were large or rigorous enough to determine whether one’s mood can make you physically sick, or if mood is a reflection of your health. We also need a better understanding of how social and economic factors, such as weather, pollution, access to food, sleep, and social connectedness, affect both mood and health. Furthering scientific understanding of mood is critical to building a Culture of Health, which is why we are supporting this Challenge.

I urge researchers, technologists, and data scientists to join this effort by submitting a proposal by May 22, 2016. We’re proud to advance research in this field and excited to see what solutions entrants will propose to help build a Culture of Health in America.

Informational Webinar Archive Now Available

Thank you to everyone who joined us on Tuesday, April 19th for the Mood Challenge informational webinar. For those who were unable to tune in or would like to watch the webinar again, a video archive is available below.

Webinar topics included an in-depth overview of the Challenge, detailing the criteria and timeline, concluding with a Q&A session. Additional answers to frequently asked questions will be posted soon.

A PDF of the webinar presentation is available here.

Reminder: Tune into the April 19 Informational Webinar

At 3:00 PM ET tomorrow, April 19, we’re hosting an Informational Webinar on the Mood Challenge for ResearchKit. You can access the webinar here.

  • Event Number: 665 737 039
  • Event Password: mood

All sound and video can be accessed through the web link, but if you have technical difficulties, you can access the audio using the following dial-in information:

  • Audio Conference Number: 415-655-0002
  • Audio Conference Access code: 665 737 039

The webinar will be archived on the Challenge blog for those who can’t attend. The webinar will be broadcast via WebEx. We recommend visiting the link in advance of 3:00 PM ET to download the required plug-in. Please note that the plug-in will not install if your browser has high security settings or you do not have administrative rights. For your reference, the full WebEx system requirements are available here. The session is able to accommodate up to 500 participants.

Launched today: The Mood Challenge for ResearchKit

What if the key to understanding mood was in your pocket? We believe it is.

The Mood Challenge for ResearchKit calls on researchers and technologists to submit proposals for ResearchKit studies that will further our understanding of mood and how it relates to daily life. The Challenge, a New Venture Fund program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and powered by Luminary Labs, will award $500,000 and provide finalists with expert mentorship and piloting opportunities.

Despite decades of study, the full complexity of human mood is still a mystery. Mobile devices provide an unprecedented opportunity to investigate mood through the collection of active and passive data. ResearchKit, an open source software framework designed by Apple, turns iPhone into a powerful tool for medical research by helping doctors, scientists, and other researchers gather data more frequently and more accurately from participants anywhere in the world. Now, with the announcement of CareKit, insights gathered from these studies will be used to help people manage their well-being on a daily basis.

Entrants are encouraged to go beyond measuring the surface level of what we call emotion and mood to explore contextual factors and social determinants that relate to mood, such as weather, pollution, access to food, sleep, and social connectedness.

“We think platforms like ResearchKit have the potential to revolutionize how research is conducted, and we’re launching this competition to help explore that,” said RWJF President and CEO Risa-Lavizzo-Mourey. “We know that mood is one of the keys to health, but much more can be learned about the relationship between mood and the many social and economic factors that affect it, and our health. We’re thrilled to help advance research in this field that will help build a Culture of Health in America.”

Interested? Proposals for ResearchKit studies will be accepted until May 22, 2016. Five semi-finalists will receive $20,000 each and have the opportunity to develop their proposals into app designs during the Virtual Accelerator, which includes an in-person boot camp to help with the development of their designs. Following the Virtual Accelerator, two finalists will receive $100,000 and move ahead to the Finalist Incubation and Testing phase, during which teams will fully develop their designs into prototypes. Following testing, one winner will be chosen to receive $200,000 to continue development and, finally, submit to the App Store.

We are excited to see how entrant proposals will help transform mood research!