From mHealth to Sustainable mobility : DC Transportation Techies Meetup

My colleague Connie Chen, MD (@ConnieEChen) recently asked me while walking in Washington, DC, what kinds of conferences I go to these days, if not mhealth ones. I replied, “mobile health, but not as in cell phones, as in transportation.”

Last evening I attended a new meetup in the metropolitan Washington, DC area, “Transportation Techies” (@TechiesDC), which is

A meetup group for programmers interested in transit, biking and walking.

And… I learned that there are a lot of programmers here interested in transit, biking, & walking. My photographs are below. I’ll be honest, I understood most of the words they were using, but I wouldn’t know how to sit down and create what they’ve created, and I loved them all.

I had a blast. Data can be fun, funny, and the sociology of how it’s made available by various agencies, organizations, is fascinating to watch from outside one’s own industry. I posted photos below, and you can link to all of the awesome projects/presentations here : Metro Hack Night: Transportation Techies @ Mobility Lab – One thing (among many) I love about techies is that they know how to use open tools to document.

Why Transportation and Heatlh?

Besides enjoying the presentations, I was there to pitch a special edition of this meetup, on March 6, 2014, on “Transportation and Health” (can anyone suggest a short hashtag for us?). Given all the geekery I had witnessed, I was surprised when our host, Michael Schade (@mvs202) asked the group if they were interested in health applications. Nearly all the hands went up. 

With that I launched into my pitch, which is that we recognize now that the design of our cities has as much impact on our health as our health care system does … maybe more. And that part of health is outnumbered and outspent by acute care activities in this country. Indeed, after the session, I talked to an engineer who told me that he’s been trained to create highways that allow the largest trucks to pass – potentially at the expense of community members who need to cross those roads safely. Roundabouts are being enlarged, not being made smaller, because the size of large trucks is increasing. This means potentially sickening an entire community, while an unaware health system treats the injuries/heatstroke/frostbite of those who were not able to cross safely.

We want to change that by inviting talented groups like this in to show the health system how it can understand, collaborate, and co-innovate with transportation for a healthier society. Check out the grid “Looking at the numbers,” comparing numbers of people, $, %GDP, of the food, transportation, and health industries, in my presentation below – we are industries of comparable size that are generally not working together, maybe at cross purposes. Let’s join forces!

DC Transportation Techies Meetup 01-02-2014 from Ted Eytan

Meetups can be healthy, too

The other thing we want to change is the meetup culture. It is great in many ways … except maybe in producing health at its events. Pizza and sugary drinks tend to be the norm, I have noticed. At the last meetup we hosted, we brought in healthy and delicious food. Let’s do the same here – a meetup about health has to be healthy, right?

We’re very excited to learn from each other, and with huge thanks to our sponsors, Kaiser Permanente Digital Technology and Operations (@kpdigitalhealth) , and Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit (@kpcommbenefit). This is important to us because health is important to us.

In addition to the twitter handles above, I highly recommend following the newest , favorite of mine: @KPGreenHC , which will update you on the health system’s drive to create healthier people on a healthy planet, together, at the same time (it can be done!).

Thanks to last night’s hosts, the nationally awesome Mobility Lab (@mobilitylabteam), and for all the attendees for their interest in inspiring us to be better doctors, nurses, staff, patients, citizens. Last night’s hashtag was “#MetroHackNight” if you’re interested in following the tweetexchange.


Ted Eytan, MD