CDC Offers $35,000 in Prizes for Best Flu Educational Applications

Building on a plethora of flu data, the CDC will award a total of $35,000 to developers who create the best mobile or Web applications that educate the public about influenza prevention.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is holding a flu app development contest at the government Website and will award prizes totaling $35,000 to developers who create mobile and Web applications that educate the public about flu outbreaks and prevention.

The CDC, a division of the Department of Health & Human Services, is organizing the contest along with digital communications consulting firm Forum One Communications, which helps Washington, D.C.-area focus groups make the most out of online technology to reach their audiences.

Forum One assisted the CDC in organizing the contest as a way to promote the agency's flu data, according to Angela Milton, senior project officer for Forum One Communications.

The online applications, games or tools will help promote proper flu prevention and educate the public in ways to avoid the illness, Milton told eWEEK.

The CDC will award $35,000 total in prizes. First place gets $15,000; second place, $10,000; third place, $5,000; People's Choice, $2,500; and up to $2,500 for Honorable Mention. Up to five participants could receive a $500 Honorable Mention award.

Apps developed for the Flu App Challenge should be "creative," "fun to use" and teach the public about flu prevention, Milton said.

For the CDC, the goal of the project is to have developers build applications that educate the public about preventing flu outbreaks as well as promote the CDC's data sets on the flu, according to Fred Smith, technology team lead for the CDC's Electronic Media branch.

"We thought this was a great chance to try to use this vehicle to not only promote the CDC's data and content to developers but to see how to use this challenge mechanism to capitalize on great ideas that are out there," Smith told eWEEK.

Previously, federal agencies have posted their app contests on but are now using, a subset of is a private New York-based startup that markets its Web platform for citizen-engagement tech challenges in corporate, nonprofit and government sectors.

Participating developers must use at least one data set on the site, according to Milton.

Data sets developers can use include influenza vaccination estimates, RSS feeds, JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) feeds and an XML source for the Weekly Flu Activity Report.

Types of apps developers may create include mobile apps for iPhones, iPads or Android; Facebook apps; EHR (electronic health record) applications; games; Web widgets; and applications for Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault, Smith said. Developers may also include podcasts in their apps.

For the Flu App Challenge, the CDC followed a content syndication model they used around the time of the H1N1 outbreaks, when information was disseminated to partner Websites, Smith said.

"It allows the CDC's Web content to be accessed as an API that can then be leveraged into Web applications or mobile applications so that developers would have access to credible health content they can leverage inside of their applications," he explained.

The submission period began on April 6 and runs until May 27. Submissions must be free to the public and available for a year following the results announcement. Individuals can submit more than one app, and submissions can be from an individual or a team.

The judging period runs from May 28 through June 7, with the winners announced at midnight EDT on June 8.

In another HHS contest on, the department, along with Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston, will award $5,000 in prizes to participants who can design an application to be used with EHRs. The submission period for the Smart Apps for Health contest ends May 31.