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GCN : October 2012
38 GCN OCTOBER 2012 • GCN.COM ZAID HAMID GCN AWARDS SUPERTRACKER DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE Obesity is at dangerous levels in the US, and with it comes an assortment of diseases and ailments that threaten to overwhelm an already stretched health- care system. Today health organizations are desperate to find ways to combat this epidemic, and to educate people on how to manage their weight. In December 2011, the Department of Agriculture's Food, Nutrition and Con- sumer Services launched SuperTracker, an online tool aimed at helping people get a handle on their dietary needs. It also includes a way for them to track how much exercise they are getting, and provides an analysis of how effectively people are combining that with their diet. SuperTracker, available at the USDA's ChooseMyPlate.gov Web site, supports the department's goal to take new na- tional dietary guidelines, published in January 2011, to as wide an audience as possible. It's been phenomenally suc- cessful already. SuperTracker registered its 1 millionth user in early September, just nine months after its launch. "It's part of a very large effort to bring dietary guidelines into homes, schools, restaurants and supermarkets across the country," explained Robert Post, deputy director of the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. "From previous tools, we learned a lot about consumer-friendly approaches, peoples' motivation, their likelihood of being at- tracted and continued engagement with the tools." SuperTracker allows people to com- pare the nutritional information of over 8,000 foods and to receive recommen- dations on how much to eat and the amount of physical exercise they should be getting. It even provides personal- ized features such as goal setting, virtual coaching and writing daily journals. As a public-facing system, the USDA team based SuperTracker on Web 2.0 technologies such as Asynchronous Ja- vaScript and XML to make it as robust and dynamic as possible, including inte- gration with social networking applica- tions such as Facebook and Twitter. The content can also be updated in real time. Future activities will be aimed at tak- ing SuperTracker beyond the USDA Web site and incorporating it into other pro- grams that deal with health and well- ness. USDA already has been working with the Office of Personnel Manage- ment so SuperTracker can promote well- ness in federal agencies. Given its consumer orientation, the service has also been getting a lot of at- tention from other government agencies that are looking for ways to better en- gage with the public. "The level of per- sonalization that comes with this tool is what other agencies are also looking to create as they build solutions for a world where such things as mobile devices and Smartphones are becoming wide- spread," Post said. • --- Brian Robinson SuperTracker uses XML and social media to provide the nation guidelines for keeping a healthy, data-driven diet Nutrition service enlists Web in healthcare battle From left: Sarah Chang, Trish Britten, Jackie Haven, Robert Post, Mary Herrup, Angela Leone ORGANIZATION: US Department of Agriculture, Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services PROJECT: SuperTracker CHALLENGE: To support imple- mentation of new national dietary guidelines and tackle obesity. SOLUTION: Build an online, personalized tool to help people control their weight by balancing diet with exercise. AT A GLANCE