Data availability and use is at an all-time high in America. Data can be obtained in seemingly unlimited ways — from smart phones, smart watches, smart speakers, smart cars, and even smart homes. The possibilities are boundless. However, are Americans truly utilizing this technology to its highest potential to truly learn and better themselves?
In an interview with Dr. Marissa Burgermaster, Assistant Professor in Nutritional Sciences and Population Health here at UT Austin, I had the privilege of unwrapping the potential the technological world has in assisting in nutrition and health change. Dr. Burgermaster received her MS in nutrition education at Montclair State University before completing her PhD in behavioral nutrition from Teachers College Columbia University. Following her PhD, she continued on at Columbia University Medical Center as a National Institute of Health postdoctoral fellow . The goal of Dr. Burgermaster’s research is to leverage digital technologies and personal data to support people in adopt a healthy diet to prevent and manage chronic disease.
The current focus of Dr. Burgermaster’s work is dietary management of type 2 diabetes. She has worked on teams that developed apps to help patients with diabetes for both smartphones and Amazon’s Alexa smart speaker.
Platano is a dietary self-monitoring app for patients with type 2 diabetes. Platano is intended to provide patients an easier and more informed way to track and manage their diabetes and was developed to support patients from a primarily Hispanic and low-income neighborhood in New York City. Dr. Burgermaster is now piloting Platano here in Austin, in partnership with a local Federally Qualified Healthcare Network. By integrating a self-management app into a patient’s care plan in coordination with their doctor, the hope is that patient’s will be able to leverage their own data to set goals, track their progress, and communicate better with their medical team.
Taming Type 2 Diabetes Together , or T2D2, provides personalized nutrition advice and type 2 diabetes self-management support for patients based on their diet and blood glucose data that they log via the voice app. T2D2 can detect when voice-logged blood sugar readings are too high or too low and offers tips on how to improve blood sugar with a realistic action plan for the day, like suggesting the user bring a refillable water out during the day to remind him/her to drink water instead of sugary drinks to lower their blood sugar.
These are only two of many initiatives that utilize technology to assist in nutrition and health change, there is much more room for growth and expansion in this field that could be the future for the health of Americans. As our world is shifting to become more and more digitized, our medical care is too. Health and nutrition care plans are complex and confusing to the general public. With this new innovation in the technological world, health and nutrition change could become accessible to and understood by millions more consumers on a daily basis.
Rachel Gutierrez, nutrition student at the University of Texas at Austin, interviewed Dr. Marissa Bergermaster, wrote, and edited this story.
- Burgermaster, M., T2D2: Personal Interview, R. Gutierrez, Editor. March 29, 2019.
- Burgermaster, M. Marissa Burgermaster. n.d.; Available from: https://marissaburgermaster.com.
- Columbia University. T2D2: Taming Type 2 Diabetes, Together. 2017; Available from: https://www.t2d2.io.