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Exploring new data sources to monitor public health

Innovation in tracking public health

Technology advances are opening up new ways to collect health data. There is an opportunity to use these new platforms and sources of data to improve public health surveillance. This raises the question: how can we best leverage these new sources of information and integrate them into existing health monitoring systems?

To answer this question, leading federal Canadian and American health and innovation organizations came together to create the Healthy Behaviour Data Challenge. This competition sought to identify and evaluate new data sources and methods to enhance public health surveillance.

Innovators were asked to propose creative new types of data and data sources that can be used to measure indicators of physical activity (e.g. daily number of steps), sleep (e.g. number of times awake per night), sedentary behaviour (e.g. average number of hours per day spent sedentary), or nutrition (e.g. servings of fruits and vegetables consumed per day).

After evaluating entries from across the country, eight Canadian proposals were selected to move forward to the second stage of the contest where teams continued development and validation of their concepts. Three proposals were then selected as overall challenge winners. U.S. entries were evaluated separately for both phases.

Check out the winners

Who participated?



Public sector institutions

Private sector organizations

Phase 1 Applicants (CAN)

Phase 2 Finalists (CAN)

How the challenge worked

This challenge was divided into two separate streams: one for innovators based in Canada and one for those based in the United States. Applications to each stream were handled separately. Both streams followed a two-phase process.

Phase 1: Ideation

Challenge participants identified and proposed new data sources, platforms and methodologies for measuring any number of indicators for physical activity, sleep, sedentary behaviour or nutrition. Proposals allowed for measurement of indicators at a nation population level and used a list of suggested indicators from the Health Indicators page as a starting point. Finalists selected from Phase 1 received a financial prize and advanced to Phase 2. Details of the awards can be foundon the application websites for each challenge stream.


Phase 2: Testing

Selected submissions were invited to further develop and validate their Phase 1 concept. The results were compared to existing research, analysis, and/or surveillance outputs from the Public Health Agency of Canada (for the Canadian stream) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (for the American stream). The most promising solutions were then selected to receive a financial award and an opportunity to explore how the concept could be integrated into public health surveillance systems.

Got questions?

Send us an email and we will do our best to answer your query promptly.

For the Canada stream, email

For the U.S. stream, email


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