Hack4Health team Roze receives MS Society funding to develop new fatigue management resource

Team Roze at Hack4Health 2.0. Pictured (left to right): Lisa Loiselle (Co-chair), Lori-Ann Williams, Marium Kirmani, Rui Su, Karla Boluk (Co-chair)

Team Roze at Hack4Health 2.0. Pictured (left to right): Lisa Loiselle (Co-chair), Lori-Ann Williams, Marium Kirmani, Rui Su, Karla Boluk (Co-chair)

I recently had the opportunity to interview Roze, a team of University of Waterloo students and the winners of last Fall’s annual Hack4Health competition hosted by the university. Hack4Health is a 36-hour innovation marathon bringing together students from multi-disciplinary fields working together to design a technology-based project on new wellness solutions for people living with multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. Check out a previous blog post about the Hack4Health program and winners of the 2015 competition.

The members of team Roze – which include Lori-Ann Williams, Marium Kirmani, Rui Su and Tina Chan –bring experience from different areas: public health, pharmacy, software development and informatics. These talented ladies were excited about the opportunity to learn about MS and other neurodegenerative diseases as well as how they could contribute their skills of intersecting technology and health to make improvements in the quality of life for people living with MS. At Hack4Health, they pitched the idea of an app that promotes appropriate physical activity for women living with MS to help cope with and potentially reduce fatigue, one of the most common symptoms of MS.  As the winners of the competition, they were selected to work with a supervisor to further develop their project with the help of a $15,000 grant from the MS Society of Canada.

In my interview with team Roze, I learned more about what motivated them to participate in Hack4Health, their fatigue-based technology, and a bit about the members of the team themselves.

Tell me a little about yourself and what motivated you to participate in Hack4Health?

Tina: I am a master of science candidate at University of Waterloo School of Public Health and Health Systems. This was an event run by my faculty and I thought it was a good opportunity to learn about dementia, MS, and other neurodegenerative diseases. It also gave me an opportunity to work with a team of great people.

Rui: I am currently pursuing a doctor of pharmacy at the University of Waterloo. I worked in many community pharmacies as well as a cancer centre in Toronto. I am really passionate about health care as well as the intersection of technology and health care and how that can improve patient outcomes.

Marium: I just finished my bachelor of health sciences degree at the University of Waterloo with a specialization in health informatics. I participated in Hack4Health because it provides an environment to find practical solutions to health-related problems.

Lori-Ann: I am currently working full time in downtown Toronto for a company that develops software for the life sciences industry. The reason why I did Hack4Health was because I like how it combines technology and health. Being at the hackathon, I could easily connect with people who had MS and could use my skills to create a more direct impact.

What is your project and how will your project help people with MS and the MS community as a whole?

Tina: At Hack4Health, we proposed a platform that would help young women living with MS. During the hackathon we did some research and realized that women, especially around the age of 30, were not represented in the literature. As young women, we thought about what we would want if we were diagnosed with MS. We thought about things that are in our lives and the popularity of mobile applications and gaming. So, we decided to combine the two and see if we could gamify something to help young women manage MS symptoms, specifically pain and fatigue.

Rui: I think the number one thing we are focused on is to see if the mobile app is feasible and receptive for women with MS. If this framework is validated, it can open doors for other similar technologies to be used for other diseases in addition to MS.

What do you hope the outcome will be for women living with MS once they are able to use the app?

Marium: I think the primary outcome we are hoping to achieve is an improvement in the day-to-day lives of women living with MS.

Tina: We are also hoping to motivate women to be more physically active and I think our gaming app will do just that.

Based on your initial research on MS, have you thought about the type of routines that will be part of your platform?

Rui: Physical activities such as yoga and dance are currently used as fatigue management strategies, but because these activities are only available at scheduled times and quite infrequently, it makes it difficult for young women who are juggling a career and family to find time to participate. So, our project aims to include these and other activities in an app, and gather input from occupational therapists and physiotherapists, to ensure that such activities can be performed in the comfort of one’s home and at their own time.

Where did the team name Roze come from? Does it relate to the project?

Marium: We are looking to create an app for women with MS, so we picked a team name that had a more feminine meaning. We want women to feel empowered and feel that they “Roze” above the challenges of living with MS.

What are your plans moving forward after the completion of the mobile platform? How will the platform be tested and rolled out? 

Lori-Ann: We are planning to meet with people in the industry who are experienced in developing health-related apps. This will give us insight into the challenges involved with creating a gaming app. We hope to do this task in parallel to developing a prototype of the app and identifying the needs and interests of women living with MS.

Tina: Our long-term goal is figuring out how to bring the product to market. This may be through cooperation with an industry partner or creating a venture of our own.

What do you anticipate will be the biggest challenge?

Tina: We know apps and new technology go through phases of trends. A challenge we are anticipating is how to keep users engaged in the app long-term.

What do you hope to learn through the development of this app? Or what have you learned about MS?

Lori-Ann: Although we have already delved into research and identified existing support systems available for people with MS, it’s going to be really exciting to see firsthand the impact that this gaming approach has on the lives of individuals with MS.

Check out Team Roze’s Facebook page. Do you have questions or comments about Hack4Health or research involving MS and wellness? Leave them below.

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