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South Yorkshire to be focus for smartphone illness prevention study

By PA Media,BBC News

A new study in South Yorkshire is to test whether smartphone sensors could help detect and prevent illnesses.

Global tech giant Google will conduct the research alongside academics and local government staff at the South Yorkshire Digital Health Hub.

The first project will test whether sensors could help detect conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and chronic kidney disease.

Debbie Weinstein, from Google, said the research could “drive lasting change”.

Ms Weinstein, managing director for Google UK and Ireland, said the projects would “explore how technology could improve quality of life, free valuable NHS resources and drive economic growth”.

“Technology has the power to transform the nation’s health and we recognise the need for an approach that unlocks both the innovative tools and the skills needed to implement these solutions,” she added.

As part of the project, Google said it would also provide 500 Fitbits – a wearable fitness tracker – for a separate study on post-surgical rehabilitation.

The cross-sector collaboration would “serve as proof of concept” for other UK regions, Ms Weinstein said.

Digital data from daily life, such as that from wearable technology like smart watches, was an “underutilised source of information”, according to the South Yorkshire Digital Health Hub.

Tim Chico, director of the Health Hub and professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield, said: “We launched this health hub because we know that the more information we have about patients’ health as early as possible, the more opportunities we will have to make a difference.”

Professor Chico added: “With partners like Google, we are able to look at how we harness technology to support that information gathering, to support patients and medical professionals to make decisions together earlier, leading to better outcomes.”

The partnership will also see Google fund 30 digital apprenticeships for small businesses in South Yorkshire as part of a three-year partnership with the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority.

Oliver Coppard, South Yorkshire’s Mayor, said: “Our partnership is based on our shared ambition to tackle the stark health inequalities that plague our communities, using cutting edge digital tools and solutions to address long-term problems.”

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