Public health experts traditionally rely on data from online questionnaires, in-person interviews, and telephone surveys to gain insight into a population’s health. Now, new real-time data sources are emerging that can provide a more complete picture of the health of Canadians.

The Public Health Agency of Canada, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the United States Department of Health and Human Services announced the launch of the Healthy Behaviour Data Challenge.

Open data enthusiasts, as well as health and technology innovators from public and private sector organizations, will help identify and evaluate new data sources for public health surveillance. The goal is to find innovative ways to track, monitor and better understand physical activity, sleep and inactive behavior through the use of data from technologies such as wearable devices and mobile applications.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is providing approximately $1 million in funding over the next three years to MaRS Discovery District, which will lead a series of three data challenges in Canada.

Data challenges are open competitions that seek to draw on expertise and experience from a wide range of health, technology, open data, and non-traditional partners to advance public health initiatives.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research is also providing up to $100,000 in funding for the finalists and winners of the data challenges to further develop their ideas.

“Thanks to the collaboration between our partners here at home and in the United States, we have a unique opportunity to transform traditional public health surveillance and to find the evidence we need to shape action in public health. Our government is committed to encouraging innovative solutions that improve the quality of life of Canadians,” says The Honourable Jane Philpott, PC, MP, Canada’s Minister of Health, in a release.