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Kanawha health officials present new app

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department will deliver three presentations starting this weekend as part of the American Public Health Association's annual meeting in Boston.

Two presentations cover separate mobile apps dealing with food safety and threat preparedness. The last presentation outlines the results of the school vaccination program.

The American Public Health Association's meeting, which takes place Nov. 2-6, attracts about 15,000 attendees every year, said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Kanawha-Charleston executive director.

"It's the largest gathering of public health individuals in the country under one roof," he said.

Gupta said officials are most excited about presenting on the department's new app, called KCHD Food.

In this app, people can choose restaurants, get directions to local places, look at inspections, find the amount of calories in their favorite foods and see how long they need to exercise to burn off those calories.

As an example, if a person were to look up a Hardee's large roast beef sandwich, the app lists the calories as 590 and says a person would need to walk 5.5 miles to burn off the calories from this sandwich.

Gupta said this project has been in the works for about a year, and although the free app already is available for download, it will officially be launched within the next few weeks.

The idea took off from managing food safety. Gupta said the department wanted to merge issues of food safety and obesity.

"We are trying to make sure people are aware of what they eat," Gupta said.

The app is divided into the separate sections of restaurant inspections, calorie info, food safety Q&A, restaurant locator and weight loss management.

Nasandra Wright, the department's sanitarian supervisor who helped create the app, called it a "one-stop shop" to educate Kanawha County residents.

The food safety Q&A, Gupta explained, addresses issues like how long to keep food in the event of a power outage. The weight loss management section allows people to plan meals and establish a weight loss plan.

Although the app deals with restaurants in Kanawha County, Gupta said people all over the state and nation can use it.

In fact, Wright said the app has attracted attention from the U.K. and Canada from people seeking to replicate it.

The department's second presentation deals with the KCHD Ready app. Gupta explained the app, which was launched last year, covers topics such as volunteer opportunities and the county's emergency escape plans.

In the final presentation, the department will go over the school vaccination program. Gupta said the department has found that between 2010 and 2011, there was a 59 percent reduction in expected absenteeism for elementary school students.

"We know anecdotally, talking to nurses and teachers, that there is improvement in both the staff absenteeism because of flu in the wintertime and also in students," Gupta said. 

The program got its start in 2009 and received federal funds to address H1N1. Gupta said the department wanted to continue the program even with the absence of federal funding.

Gupta explained the voluntary program is self-sustaining because insurance companies are billed.

He said this program, which covers public and private K-12 schools in Kanawha County, also has received national attention.

"We hope that we are able to do a similar program in Putnam next year," Gupta said.

Contact writer Andrea Lannom at Andrea.Lannom@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148. Follow her at www.twitter.com/AndreaLannom.


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