Scales obesity

It gave us the controversial Sugar Smart app, now Public Health England is turning to whizzkids once more to try to come up with new digital weapons in the fight against obesity.

The DH executive body has invited a raft of app developers to invent new tech that will encourage children to follow healthier diets and do more exercise.

PHE held a hackathon event in Manchester last week to test run ideas, using a class of 11-year-olds as guinea pigs to test the ideas.

It hopes the event will lead to the launch of new apps in the coming months to follow Sugar Smart, which has been downloaded more than two million times since its launch at the start of the year. It was developed following a similar event two years ago.

The successful participants could be in for big money backing from the DH.

PHE has thrown £5m at the launch of the Sugar Smart app, although it is keen to point out that is a small fraction compared with the £5.1bn obesity costs the NHS each year.

“There’s no bigger challenge than obesity,” said PHE director for health and wellbeing Keven Fenton, who said he hoped the new apps could prove to be a “game changer”.

“It’s really powerful when you combine an innovative and disruptive digital culture with the knowledge of experienced medics, as well as experts who understand how to build an evidence base and measure health impact,” he added.

“With over a third of 10 to 11-year olds overweight and just 21% of boys and 16% of girls meeting recommended physical activity guidelines, we have to act fast.”

The Sugar Smart app was the subject of angry complaints from suppliers after PHE admitted it had a series of errors over sugar content at launch, although it claims to have fixed the problems since.