self-tracking data

Self-Tracking Data: HealthCampDC Perspective

self-tracking data

How do you know what’s normal?  How do you win? How do you know when to stop?

These were just a few of the wonderful, offbeat questions that popped up during a session on self-tracking I facilitated at HealthCampDC 2011.

Bring together a group of thought leaders with wide-ranging expertise. Let them debate and question the concept of self-tracking. Suddenly data and tracking take on entirely new identities.

HealthCampDC was one event of many during DC Health Innovation Week. Our discussion on self-tracking highlighted the theme of the week: how do we better utilize data to weave together stories to improve health outcomes?


  • People are lazy. Tracking systems need to be simple and intuitive.
  • Diseases and conditions aren’t siloed. Tracking systems for them shouldn’t be, either.
  • Community, sharing, friends, competition – these are all very important components of self-tracking.
  • Community, sharing, friends, competition – there are times when these are detrimental in tracking communities and encourage negative health outcomes. Example given: anorexics who compete to see who can eat the least amount each day.
  • Tracking sensors are rather worthless if they aren’t reliable and accurate.
  • The Quantified Self is important, but so is the Qualified Self. Self-tracking data are not just numbers. Data can also be in the form of images and sound.
  • A great example of a successful (trusted, confidential) self-tracking community? Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • For many individuals who self-track, privacy is key, and sharing is the last thing they want to do. Example given: people who are HIV positive.
  • Self-tracking is not  ‘one size fits all.’
  • Just the act of tracking is valuable. Putting down a number or taking a photo raises awareness, which is a key step in behavior change.


  • How can SMS be better utilized for self-tracking in underserved communities?
  • What are the barriers to tracking?
  • How do you better incentivize or incorporate motivators into tracking devices?
  • Under what conditions would it be helpful to have a tracking ‘trajectory’ to illustrate the path you’re on (good or bad)?
  • How do you make tracking data actionable?
  • How do you cross the self-tracking chasm from ‘work’ to ‘fun’?

Self-tracking session gurus included Marilyn Langfeld (@MarilynsView), Alan Viars (@aviars), Gregg Masters (@2healthguru), Sandra Paredes, Andrew Rainey (@breadforthecity), Greg Bloom (@breadforthecity), Richard Layman, Rebecca Frank (@frankrebecca), Andre Blackman (@mindofandre), Dave Haft (@davehaft), Eden Shiferaw (Community Education Group), Mark Scrimshire (@ekivemark), Stephen Murphy (@IQSolutions), Joe Lyons (Lyons Advisors, LLC), Baabi Das (Zansors, LLC), Jessica Sachs, Peter Speyer (@PeterSpeyer), Lindsey Hoggle (@lindseybh), Lanny Hartmann (@Lanny). Apologies to anyone I missed – let me know and I’ll add you.

What do you view as key issues and questions in the realm of self-tracking?

Thanks to Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health for hosting the event in their stunning new space.

DC Health Innovation Week Events  (Twitter tag: #dchealth):

Great posts by others on Health Innovation Week events:

Related posts