Apple’s health sharing, walking steadiness features go live and other digital health briefs

Apple update. iPhone users will have access to new health features in iOS 15, released today, MobiHealthNews has learned.

The update includes a sharing feature within the Health app that allows users to share their data with their loved ones, a walking-steadiness biomarker that provides insights into fall risk and a trends feature that can highlight any changes in their collected health data. In the U.S., patients using the new sharing feature also choose to share some data directly with their doctor.

The updates were originally announced in June at Apple’s annual developer conference. 

Last week, Apple revealed it will be adding cycling features to its WatchOS 8 and expanding its Fitness+ program, a subscription platform of workout videos designed to be used with an Apple Watch.

Moon medicine. The Translational Research Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at Baylor College of Medicine awarded $4 million to researchers studying how to protect the body from damage in space by reducing metabolism.

TRISH said changing the body’s metabolic and homeostatic processes could limit damage from radiation and low gravity, and also reduce the food and medical supplies needed during longer-haul spaceflights.

The winners include Clifton Callaway at the University of Pittsburgh for “Cold-Sleep for Long Duration Spaceflight”; Tammy Chang at the University of California, San Francisco, for “The Effect of Isochoric Supercooling on Human Liver Metabolic Function”; Allyson Hindle at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, for “Can Humans Hibernate at Warm Temperatures?”; and Christopher Porada at Wake Forest University for “Using Human Organoids and Fossilized Remains from Extinct Hominins to Unlock the Secrets of Torpor/Hibernation.”

They’ll begin their research in April 2022.

“These outstanding awardees brought cutting-edge proposals to the table. Each project provides a unique opportunity to advance human health research on the bleeding edge of science fiction,” TRISH Executive Director Dorit Donovie said in a statement.

 “This creative research has the potential to protect all humans through advancing tissue transplantation or helping patients that have medical conditions such as heart or brain damage that could be aided by reducing cellular activity.”

Earlier this month, TRISH launched a medical research platform to study astronauts’ health during commercial space flights. The first mission to collect data for the program was Inspiration4, an all-civilian mission that returned to Earth Saturday.

Mental health hiring. Behavioral coaching service BetterUp named Dr. Omar Dawood as president of its mental health offering BetterUp Care.

Dawood most recently worked as chief medical officer and head of sales for meditation app Calm. He also served as president and chief medical officer of Ginger, a digital mental health company that recently merged with meditation app Headspace

“I’m thrilled to join BetterUp at a time when the need for whole-person care has never been greater,” Dawood said in a statement. 

“We have a real opportunity to take behavioral healthcare, which has historically been very reactive, and reframe the industry to be centered around proactive prevention. The last year has shown us in stark regard how mental health can deteriorate when we’re caught flat-footed by uncertainty.

“It’s clear that building resilience and mental fitness is the best way to prepare for the inevitable challenges that life throws at us. With a world-class leadership team, cutting-edge AI technology, and evidence-based solutions, BetterUp has been an undoubted leader in this space. I’m incredibly proud to lead the team’s continued work in personalized care at scale and to be able to extend the amazing BetterUp experience to even more people and organizations.”

Last week, BetterUp announced the acquisition of two data-focused software companies, Motive and Impraise. The company achieved unicorn status, meaning it reached a valuation of $1 billion, in February when it scored a $125 million Series D. 

Online elders. Seniors using the Internet after retirement could improve their cognitive function, according to a study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization.

Researchers studied a group of more than 2,000 older adults across Europe who had been retired since 2004. They tested their cognitive function in 2013 and 2015 using a word recall test.

They found those who used the Internet after they retired were able to recall 1.22 more words compared with those who didn’t use the Internet.

“Interestingly, this protective effect was found to be most significant amongst women, with female retirees who regularly surfed the internet able to recall 2.37 more words compared to women who didn’t go online. The results were also consistent among men, with retired Internet users able to recall 0.94 more words than men with similar characteristics who didn’t use the internet,” study co-author Dr Vincent O’Sullivan said in a statement.

“We also found that retirees who used computers in their jobs before retirement were more likely to keep using computers once they retired, and hence had better cognitive function.”

Pet pills. Pet retailer PetSmart Monday launched an online pharmacy for cats, dogs and livestock.

Customers with a prescription from a vet can place orders online and get medications delivered to their home.

“The Pharmacy at PetSmart is an exciting new way to help our customers access medications for pets quickly and conveniently,” Kristin Shane, SVP of merchandising, said in a statement.

“Whether you’re ordering your prescriptions for your dog or cat on or our mobile app we’ll make sure you get exactly what your pet needs to thrive delivered right to your door.”

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