They designed a Snapchat-like nutrition app with their grandparents’ diet in mind

Most digital dietary packages are geared towards younger adults working to determine wholesome consuming patterns as they start to navigate the world independently. But that doesn’t imply that older adults couldn’t profit from some assist, too. 

That’s the considering that led a staff of Northeastern college students to make geriatric vitamin the topic of this yr’s Husky Health Innovation Challenge. In the case competitors, placed on by healthcare innovation membership ViTAL, groups of scholars pitched authentic digital options to assist geriatric sufferers meet their dietary well being wants over the span of simply two weeks final month. It all culminated on March 27 in a single-day occasion—Pitch Day—which is paying homage to the tv present Shark Tank, with finalist groups presenting their enterprise plans to a panel of judges who then rank the highest proposals. 

Among the highest proposals this yr have been a Snapchat-style app to assist customers plan and monitor their meals, a voice assistant system to attach customers with dietary assist, and a subscription snack field tailor-made to every buyer’s particular person dietary wants. 

“Nutrition is a significant component that performs into numerous continual well being circumstances in addition to numerous different circumstances that individuals expertise older of their lives that may considerably change their high quality of life,” says Elisa Danthinne, a fifth-year industrial engineering pupil at Northeastern, who’s the director of particular occasions on the healthcare innovation membership and led the planning staff for the problem.

A staff of Northeastern college students devised EatRight, a Snapchat-like app for senior residents that serves as a meals diary, meal planner, connection to dieticians, and offers different dietary assist companies. Their marketing strategy was honored within the 2021 Husky Health Innovation Challenge. Photo by Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University

This yr, the Husky Health Innovation Challenge wasn’t only for Huskies. The student-organized competitors was expanded to incorporate undergraduate college students from throughout the Boston space. 

There aren’t alternatives just like the Husky Health Innovation Challenge particularly for undergraduates within the Boston space, says Danthinne. “We wished to mannequin our competitors off of what graduate establishments have been doing,” and make the competitors extra collaborative and accessible for all undergraduates from the primary competitors in 2019, she says. But it wasn’t till this yr, when college life moved on-line and her staff had two earlier competitions beneath their belts, that the problem was expanded.

And it was fairly the turnout. Representing eight completely different faculties, 87 college students entered the third Husky Health Innovation Challenge, up from 23 and 25 through the first two competitions.

“I feel it pushed us quite a bit more durable than if it was simply at Northeastern,” says Eva Kuruvilla, a second-year pupil at Northeastern who research mobile and molecular biology and healthcare methods engineering. “It additionally made the second place win really feel extra gratifying.”

Kristine Aleksandrovica portrait

Kuruvilla was a part of a Northeastern staff that proposed a marketing strategy for a telehealth platform that the staff referred to as EatRight, which positioned second within the competitors. The app, which is designed with seniors in thoughts, affords customers tailor-made vitamin suggestions, printable grocery plans that consider native retailer choices, customized communication with a dietician, a private meals diary, and weekly well being questionnaires.

The proposed firm additionally would combine partnerships with different organizations that present meals supply, vitamin dietary supplements, companionship, and volunteers to assist with duties similar to grocery procuring. In order to greatest assist probably the most susceptible populations, EatRight’s funding mannequin could be based mostly in Medicare. 

The staff that positioned first within the competitors was made up of Boston University college students. They pitched a voice-powered system to assist older adults in vitamin and to fortify social connection for meals accountability.  

“It was an excellent expertise,” says Ben Reydler, a junior learning enterprise administration at B.U. “I assumed it was hosted by some group, it was so skilled, all the emails, all the branding, and I get to the Pitch Day and it’s utterly student-led and I assumed, ‘that is superior.’” The expertise impressed him to begin one thing comparable at BU, he says. 

The problem didn’t solely foster pleasant rivalries between universities—it additionally served as a option to deliver Boston-area faculty college students collectively. “We tried to match individuals all through faculties in order that we may foster collaborations and in order that it wouldn’t really feel like we have been pitting faculties in opposition to one another,” says Megha Gupta, a fourth-year pupil learning neuroscience at Northeastern who led the exterior communications and outreach effort on the organizing staff for the problem.

portrait of Tyler Gogal

But for one staff, that cross-collegiate collaboration got here naturally. Elizabeth Si, a first-year pupil at Northeastern learning political science and economics, didn’t hear concerning the competitors via her personal, internet hosting college. Shreya Nair, a first-year pupil at Harvard University, noticed the commercial and instantly considered the chance to work together with her longtime good friend. The pair teamed up, recruited one other classmate of Nair’s, they usually positioned third—as the one totally freshman staff among the many finalists. 

Their proposal, Sage Snacks, is a month-to-month supply of snacks chosen to serve particular person clients’ dietary wants. The field would comprise all kinds of snacks to assist eaters broaden their very own choices and an informational card detailing the dietary worth and contextualizing that data by way of the way it advantages their our bodies. But the service wouldn’t cease there. The firm would additionally host month-to-month digital group meals in order that members may socialize with each other to alleviate loneliness and maintain eaters accountable.

The high three groups all earned money prizes that the problem organizers hope can be put towards turning these concepts right into a actuality. But, says Christopher Han, a fourth-year neuroscience main at Northeastern and government director of ViTAL, the purpose of the competitors is simply to get college students fascinated by geriatric vitamin and training placing collectively a marketing strategy and pitch. 

“You can’t clear up geriatric vitamin in a single case competitors,” Han says. “But I feel simply having the ability to suppose huge, and suppose ahead, and perceive that you just undoubtedly received’t have all of the solutions, however it is best to undoubtedly attempt … And any effort towards bettering healthcare is an efficient effort.”

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