Boston, MA, September 17, 2009 - The Harvard Health Publications Division of Harvard Medical School announced today that it will launch a new program called HMSMobile to deliver a series of iPhone Applications aimed at promoting public health. The first such application will focus on the H1N1 flu pandemic and is scheduled for release to the public in early October. These applications will leverage Harvard Medical School's extensive knowledge along with its long-standing expertise in publishing health information for the general public. The School's goal is to provide the public with the best available information on public health-related issues, including practical advice on how to reduce risks and how to respond in the event of a public health threat.
Professor Anthony L. Komaroff, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and editor-in-chief of Harvard Health Publications commented, "Increasingly, people are receiving information through mobile devices. No one carries printed publications or their computers with them wherever they go, but our mobile devices are always with us to give us answers-anytime, anywhere. People who have a question about their health want an answer now. Particularly with something like a fast-moving pandemic, "now" is when you need information. With this initiative, Harvard Medical School will for the first time publish health information for the general public using mobile devices. The iPhone's emergence as a device that is deeply integrated into users' daily lives offers the chance to reach millions of Americans and people around the world, improving our ability to respond to urgent public health challenges."
The first application to be launched will be focused on the H1N1 flu. Since the first outbreak of the so-called "swine flu" in April 2009 there have been over 180,000 cases of infection globally according to the World Health Organization. According to the White House, a "plausible scenario" for the U.S. this winter could be up to 160 million infections, with 90,000 deaths.
Professor Komaroff noted, "The H1N1 pandemic presents a significant public health threat. The White House estimates that the H1N1 flu will be more severe than the regular flu. Flu epidemics are hard to predict. Any estimates may be too optimistic or too pessimistic. However, we could be facing the most serious pandemic in a generation. Nothing is more important at this time than making sure the public is informed and prepared."
The planned iPhone application on the H1N1 flu will include science-based information on the state of the pandemic's spread; practical steps people can take to mitigate their risk of infection; key symptoms to watch for; and how to act in case of a suspected infection. In addition, the application will provide businesses with specific information on how to best prepare their enterprises for managing through the pandemic. This business-focused content was developed in collaboration with Harvard Business School.
Michael E. Porter, Harvard Professor, internationally-known authority on health care strategy, and Harvard Health Publications advisor, added, "Our nation's response to H1N1 is going to be a real test of our ability to deal with nation-wide systemic threats. Utilizing the power of mobile technologies is going to be a critical component in our response profile. These tools offer unprecedented ability to put information in the palm of people's hands at the very moment when it can make the most difference - when a first symptom is spotted, when a co-worker gets sick, when a family member is in need of care. That can make the difference between a destructive, panicked reaction and a thoughtful, preventative response."
HMSMobile, which was developed in cooperation with The Imagine Network as a strategic partner, represents the commitment of Harvard Medical School's doctors and scientists to provide people with knowledge and skills that will improve their health. Over time HMSMobile plans to expand its offerings to include content for additional platforms beyond the iPhone series, as different mobile devices add functionality that allows for similar integration