MOM: Helping Students Track Nutrition, Exercise, and Sleep

Team: Team MOM

Team Members:  Emily Hill, Jacob Warren, Sola Muno, Dina Akhmetshina

Project Title: MOM: Helping Students Track Nutrition, Exercise, and Sleep

Requested Amount:  $50,000

Expected Amount of time to Complete Project: 8-12 months

Description

It’s no secret that today’s generation of college students have more trouble adjusting to life away from home than their parents did. College students are constantly juggling a crazy schedule that leaves little to no room to concentrate on their health. It’s not that students don’t want to be healthy, but rather that under the stress of college life, personal health has become less of a priority. MOM is a mobile phone app that helps students easily manage their personal health.

The amount of homework and extracurricular of any given student is enough to warrant copious amounts of caffeine, meal skipping, and lack of sleep. Add keeping up with media to that list, and we see why the way in which media is consumed is changing rapidly. A quick trip onto Facebook or Instagram can give them updates on what all their friends are doing, but what is needed is a quick, easy way to get information on what is most beneficial to their own bodies and lives.

In order to be most constructive, health needs of college students should be coming from one point of access, be it how much they need to sleep a night or what nutrients they are lacking from day to day. This is where MOM comes in. MOM is an application that provides this kind of personalized information to each of its users. By focusing on Nutrition, Exercise and Sleep, MOM moderates the three most important aspects of a college student’s day that often get neglected. Users begin by updating a personal profile, including information such as their body type, any kind of specific health or dietary needs as well as their school schedule and personal calendar. Day-to-day activities are then tracked by the app, such as meals, exercise and sleep schedule. These activities are input by the user after notifications prompt action. Then, using algorithms based on the user’s personal profile, MOM will offer advice.

In terms of Nutrition, MOM will notify a user in the morning, asking, “What did you eat for breakfast?” Once that information is input by the user, MOM will follow up with the specific nutrients that the user needs to eat for the rest of the day, as well as recipes they can make to get those nutrients, and meals from local restaurants that meet their needs (ads which are funded by the restaurants themselves). For Exercise, MOM will ask for updates throughout the day on the amount of exercise you’ve done, and reminds you to do so, along with tips on what quick exercise options you may have based on your schedule for that day. And for Sleep, MOM will track individual sleep cycles, waking the user up through an alarm based on their schedule and when they fell asleep. It will also give advice on the optimal time for a nap throughout the day, as well as the minimal amount of sleep necessary for a well-functioning day when schoolwork just needs to be done all night.

It has a game-like interface, which engages users in competitive healthy habits. Using geo-location, users can compete with others on campus, making it a fun way to get the health advice needed. As many studies have shown, healthy eating, exercise, and a good amount of sleep are all things that help with stress and anxiety, as well as bolster academic performance. MOM will allow students to perform at their very best, no matter their schedule.

What unmet need does your product meet?

College students are constantly busy. Between all of the credits, the course work, the community involvement, and the extracurricular it’s hard to find time for anything else. Important things like eating healthy foods, exercising, and getting enough sleep tend to be ignored. However, according to the American College Health Association, these three factors when improperly managed can have negative consequences on a student’s academic performance. College students need a way to quickly and efficiently track and manage their personal health. This is where MOM, an app that stores and tracks personal health information, would be extremely helpful.

There are currently other app based (fitbit) and website services that track health information; however, those services possess certain flaws which make them incompatible with the lifestyle of a college student. They are often too expensive, require a large amount of time commitment to input personal data, and are only limited to one aspect of personal health—nutrition, or exercise, or sleep. MOM would deal with nutrition, and exercise, and sleep providing college students with a centralized point of access to information regarding all three realms of their personal health. MOM would also be free, and cut back on the data input time by importing your schedule and prompting users to input information periodically rather than all at once.

Interviews

Tommy Hawthorne, male, White, 21, Junior at U of M, Music Performance Major with a Minor in Creative Writing. 

Hawthorne’s experience aligns with the findings of the American College Health Association 2015 survey in that he does not recall receiving substantial information from the university on sleep, nutrition or exercise.

He mentioned the M-Healthy program stickers that he sees in the vending machines, but when asked if he knew what M-Healthy is, Hawthorne replied “no, I don’t think I really do!”.

Anushka Sarkar, female, Indian-American, 19, Sophomore at U of M LS&A, Political Science Major. 

Sarkar stated that she couldn’t recall ever being directed to an easy-to-access source on personalized health information. She told me that she thinks having an easy way to access information about how she should be eating and sleeping would help her organize her habits. According to her, even though she has seen general information on personal health on her college campus, she hasn’t found a single optimized and individualized source.

Alex Holmes, male, White, 22, Senior at U of M LS&A, Screen Arts and Culture Major with a Minor in Vocal Performance. 

Holmes said that as his schedule has gotten busier, his health has definitely taken a back seat.  He finds it hard to make good choices about his eating habits, and finds himself sleeping through class after late nights doing homework.  He doesn’t feel like the university has given him the information he needs to make those healthy choices for himself, and thinks that if more relevant information were available, he’d have an easier time taking care of himself.

Devin Kelsey, male, Native American, 20, Junior at U of M LS&A, Pure Mathematics Major, Astronomy Minor

Kelsey believes that he may have received information from the university about how to stay healthy in the beginning of freshman year, and probably still receives information in emails that he ignores, but he could not point to specific health advice that he was given. In times of stress and lots of school work, he says that he often neglects his health when busy with school, including not eating well or sleeping much.

How big is the potential market for your idea?

Our potential market is as big as every college campus in the country, combined. As reported by the US National Center for Educational Statistics, in the fall of 2015, there are an expected 20.2 million college students in the US. In the spring of 2015 the American College Health Association conducted a survey asking what information college students thought was lacking at their school. 73.1% said that they did not believe colleges are giving adequate information on sleep issues, while around 40% said they were not receiving adequate information about nutrition and physical activity. This shows a definite need among our potential market.

How is your idea innovative?

MOM is innovative because it is a tool that is made especially for college students to help them better organize their lives and stay healthy. Because personal calendars can be integrated into the interface, the app will allow ease of access to information from multiple areas of their lives. Our closest competitor is most likely the Fitbit app, which allows the user to input their food intake and exercise. However, Fitbit and other activity trackers can be very expensive, and MOM is meant for college students who do not have a disposable income, so it will be free. MOM also tells the user what vitamins and nutrients they are missing, and will alert them to ways they can meet their daily recommended amounts. MOM will also give notifications on how much sleep the user can get with their schedule, and when they should turn off their electronics so that they do not interfere with their sleep, which can be a problem for college students. This is information that activity trackers, even ones that record sleep, do not provide.

How will your idea be financially sustainable?

The MOM App acts both an information provider to its users, and as a collector and aggregator of the data input by users. This collected data would have significant value to advertisers. The app would be able to internally process input data and optimize the ad output to the specific user. This data would be especially valuable given the geolocation feature included in the app. Retailers in a specific region could have their products marketed directly to students in that area. Products would also be marketed based on the individual user’s needs. For example, if MOM recommends that a student be getting more exercise, ads for local gyms would appear.

After the initial design phase, a small team would need to be maintained to update the app’s database and algorithms. The targeted advertising value of this app should provide enough income to continue the project.

Why are you and your team the right people to develop this project?  

We are the demographic that we are attempting to serve. We understand the need of college students for centralized access to personal health information, as well as the ways in which our generation prefers to engage with media. Sola brings through her art history studies an aesthetic eye that would be useful in designing an engaging interface. This coupled with Dina’s experience in data visualization will make information presented by the app easy understand for the user. Jacob’s experience as a performer brings unique insight into how to engage people, and Emily’s understand of biology will greatly help the designing of the app’s algorithms.

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10 Responses to “MOM: Helping Students Track Nutrition, Exercise, and Sleep”

  1. What a neat idea guys! I really like the fact that you pointed out that health can strongly affect students’ academic performance. I definitely feel like mental health and body health are strongly correlated and many students do not do enough for either aspects of their wellness. Since many students know what they SHOULD do to be healthy, but just don’t do it, I think an app that holds you accountable for your health could be extremely effective. However, one of the biggest issues that students encounter when it comes to health is, in my opinion, time management. It might be helpful to have the app address time management in some way. Overall, great work here. I think you picked a very relevant topic to the current health of Americans. Also- great name!

    • I agree this idea is very relevant for college students as well as society in general. I like how you all brought up typical college student behavior as well as the concept of wellness. I also feel that it would be sustainable using the data it collects to help marketers and businesses create advertisements. However, I would like more detail about the functionality of the app? is it easy for anyone to use, or may it have its challenges for different demographics of users?

  2. I agree with Julia, this app sounds awesome and like it would really help me manage my life. I also like the name but I have a few questions about it. 1) does MOM stand for something? If so what? And if not, why is it all capitalized? 2) I know from personal experience that my mom nagging me to do something is one of the ways to basically ensure I would put it off (hello uncleaned bedroom). There might be some sort of unconscious feeling in consumers that they want to avoid the app because it is called MOM. Not that we don’t all love our mothers, but I think you know what I mean. I think you did a very good job showing how this is different than apps/products like fitbit, and I like that you customized it to a very specific group. We definitely need something like this in our lives.

  3. I definitely think that you all have hit on a very hot topic right now; college students are constantly aware of their unhealthy habits – I know I am. I get a sour taste in my mouth and a guilty feeling when I go to grab my third cup of coffee for the day. Sleep, nutrition, and exercise are things that I think about on a daily basis, but I think Julia is right – the app should incorporate time management. The reality is that people already know that sleep, nutrition, and exercise are important, and for whatever reason aren’t doing them; I feel like the app needs to address why people aren’t doing these things rather than just prompting them to do things they already know they should do.

    However, I once heard about a college student who quite literally got scurvy in the 21st century from a pizza-and-beer diet (yikes) and I think the nutrition part of the app sounded particularly cool for recommending certain foods and nutrients based on what you eat for breakfast.

    Overall, I’m just not entirely convinced that this app fills an unmet need. With one of the latest Apple updates, every iPhone now has a free Health app that tracks steps/miles walked and tabs for nutrition, reproductive health, sleep, vitals, and fitness. It’s a pretty thorough application. It doesn’t prompt you, which is something neat about your idea, but a lot of the data is there. You might want to think about how your idea could further differentiate from this app.

    Also, I wonder if the app would actually make people less healthy by making them feel bad about themselves. If I have three papers to write and I’m stressing out, and my phone MOM chastises me for not going to the gym that day, I might feel worse than before knowing I can’t make it to the gym that day. Maybe there is a way to prevent this kind of guilt-tripping/nagging feeling of the app?

    These are just a few initial thoughts! Overall, I think that the students who wanted to use it would really enjoy it. And everyone wishes they had a mom with them in college 🙂

    • Hi Rachel, thanks for the critiques! I was curious about a few things in your response. First, your comment about the app needing to address why people aren’t making healthy choices. I feel that prompting is a type of solution that will work in many cases. Especially for college students who are constantly doing some kind of task, a reminder to eat a snack, or take a nap my be the difference between working straight through or taking a break to make a healthy choice.

      About the time management aspect that both you and Julie mentioned. A big part of what MOM would do is time management. As it says in the proposal MOM would have the ability to import you calendar and make decisions on optimal sleep, snack and meal times, and exercise periods base on the users unique schedule. The main purpose of MOM is to help you effectively time manage these three aspects of your health around your schedule. When you said time management did you mean of school work? If so, I think that is a job for another app. MOM is specifically focused on the three primary aspects of health stated in the description.

      Also, about the Apple Health app. I do believe that that app is a competitor that we failed to identify (mainly because I don’t have a phone capable of using that app). Not everyone has an iPhone. All Android users do not have access to the Apple Health App. This leaves a definite hole in the market. MOM is also different from Apple Health in some key ways. In our app you are able to import your schedule and it will make informed decisions based on that schedule. A feature that is not present in the Apple Health app. Also, what you pointed out about MOM being notification based is a huge part of what I think makes our app superior to the Apple Heath app when marketing to college students. The unmet need among students is for a cheap, centralized health information and logging app that maintains the burden of thinking about personal health so that they don’t have to. By promoting the user throughout the day, the app can maintain its user’s commitment to their health without the user needing to stay constantly mentally engaged in the planning and process. This is another major feature that the Apple Health app does not possess.

  4. I think this a great idea that could improve the health of college students! I know I would benefit from this, especially the sleep tracking function. The part I liked the most was monitoring exercise since most college students I personally know can’t find time to work out. However, will the app only monitor exercise based on responses from users? I think it would also be a good idea to use the geolocation capabilities of the phone to track people’s steps for the day. This is also a function already present on the health app on iPhone’s. That way people could see if they’ve hit 10,000 steps, which is the recommended activity level for adults. Then students would be prompted to do additional exercise if they haven’t walked far enough. (For example, my mom goes for a walk after work if she hasn’t gotten 10,000 steps during the day.) This could also be useful because students may feel pressured by the app and lie to it about how much exercise they have done that day.

    • An app that helps students manage stress certainly would help a lot of students. Admittedly, I am a student who consumes far too much caffeine (though in my defense I worked at Dunkin Donuts each of the last 3 summers).

      Anyway, I can also say that while I know the University of Michigan does give out information/advice on healthy choices for students, I don’t generally see it. Granted, it is debatable as to whose fault that is. An app would certainly make it much more convenient to actually attain such information and get objective information as to how I’m doing keeping up my health. I’m sure if I looked at hard data, I’d be horrified.

      I do agree, however, that the app would be better served by incorporating time management. Time management is what makes it possible to everything we need and want to do in the time we have. This includes eating healthy, going to the gym (or whatever is one’s preferred form of exercise), and getting enough sleep. Effective time management is up there with the biggest stress reducers there is.

      I do think this app is a neat idea and certainly has plenty of potential.

  5. First of all, great name! We all need our Moms to keep us organized, so true!

    Do you think people will pay to use MOM? Or will there be certain in-app purchases?
    I overall think this is a great idea, hands down very important. But then again, it’s an app and it means you’re on your phone just a little bit more than you were before the app was released. I think the use of phones is detrimental to those who are trying to better their health, as just being on the phone is distracting.
    Let’s say MOM was a working product, where on campus would you most likely want to market it?
    Do you think recent college graduates would use MOM? I think so. Maybe advertise it to big employers of recent graduates as well.

  6. Hi, team MOM. I like this idea! The part of this proposal that struck me the most was the survey finding showing that 70% of college students want more information about sleep. You certainly want to highlight that in your pitch to the judges, and you might want to also talk more about how your app would improve on the sleep tracking that other apps such as Fitbit do. I also appreciate the way that Jacob responded to some of the early comments. Way to go!

  7. Please let me know if this is an app that gets created. I’d like to promote it to my parents of students entering college. debbiemerion@gmail.com, essaycoaching.com

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