Cross-sector collaboration is one of the latest buzz phrases in public health. However, it is rare to hear of technology sector collaborations between healthy built environment advocates and technology types such as computer programmers and electrical engineers. Health care has taken advantage of smartphone technology to help patients manage medical conditions; however, population health improvement approaches using smartphone technology in planning, implementation, and evaluation are uncommon.
Granted, public health practice is just only beginning to understand pathways that lead to better health resulting from transportation, land use, economic development, and education education policy and practice. Without a doubt the day will come when public health practitioners attending transportation or economic development meetings no longer ask themselves: "What am I expected to do in this meeting?"
There are three smartphone tools that are suited to place-based health projects that rely on citizen engagement. BikeScore, WalkScore, and ParkScore allow users to map and score a community's biking, walking, and park characteristics.
A project can also create its own application as is the case with the Little Village neighborhood in Chicago. After a long battle, the neighborhood received approval to design a community park on a blighted parcel of industrial land. The Mi Parque application was developed to make it possible for community members to contribute their ideas for park design and uses.
Community engagement need not be limited to residents making a commitment to attending a series of meetings. Technology is making it possible to make meaningful contributions to a community dialogue leading directly to project design and implementation.