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City Funds App to Combat Childhood Obesity

Courtney Cameron

O’Brien Park in Parker, Colo., has become the test site for a new system of tracking technology designed to encourage a healthier lifestyle in Colorado youth, more than 14% of whom were found to be overweight or obese in a study by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in 2014. The city of Parker is working in conjunction with Innovation Pavilion and Under Amour to fund the new project called 21st Century Parks.

In August, 17 motion sensors were installed at O’Brien Park under slides, on stairs and beside swings, to gather data on the popularity of the various equipment, the average length of usage of each one, and the busiest times of day for the playground in general. The collected data will be used to inform a new app in design by Innovation Pavilion targeting the children in the community. The goal: to incentivize outdoor play.

The app will consist of an animated version of the park which monitors the child’s motions and rewards points for certain activities. 21st Century Parks intends to release the app in 2017 and will use the points system to organize contests at the local schools.

Parker Parks recreation and open space director Jim Cleveland told The Denver Post, “With so many children now considered overweight or obese, it’s really time for the public and private sectors to work together to identify solutions. We have a very active community and also a very tech-savvy one, so it seems like Parker would be a great place to launch this.”

Vic Ahmed, cofounder and CEO of Innovation Pavilion, says the app was inspired in part by the success of Pokémon Go. “The end result is we saw technology causing behavior change. Kids are walking in parks and getting exercise,” he said.

21st Century Parks is currently working on the installation of a second set of sensors at a park in Olathe, Kan., with the eventual goal of taking the project national.

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