Fitbit could help predict flu outbreaks in real-time. But will it work in India?

Fitbit is more than just a fashion statement. Apart from helping you track your daily activity status, it can help predict flu outbreaks in real time as well.
fitness tracker
Wearable fitness trackers can help you in a number of ways. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Deeksha Sarin Updated: 21 Jan 2020, 13:50 pm IST
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In the health and fitness circuit, one thing that has garnered the attention of people of all groups is that of wearable fitness trackers.

You can walk in a park in your locality and see at least a couple of joggers with an activity tracker wrapped around their wrists. While some use them to track their daily steps, calories burned and sleep patterns, some solely wear activity trackers to make a fashion statement.

Come on, you can’t just deny this. If you happen to be one of those fitness gear snobs out there, then you are most likely to possess a Fitbit if nothing else.

But did you know that wearable fit tech of yours can track your activity status throughout the day and night and hence also help predict flu outbreaks in real-time? We are not saying it, a latest study is.

Also read: Download these 5 apps on your phone to stay on track with your fitness routine

Here’s what the study suggests
According to The Lancet Digital Health, sleep and heart rate data from wrist fitness trackers can alert public health officials of real-time flu outbreaks more accurately than already existing surveillance methods.

From March 2016 to March 2018,  researchers from the Scripps Research Translational Institute studied the data from 200,000 users in New York, California, Texas, Illinois and Pennsylvania.

Among all the participants, 60% were female and the average user was 43 years old. Of the total participants of the study, 47,248 of them consistently wore a Fitbit device during the study period.

The heart rate of a person tends to rise and their sleep patterns also change when he/she has flu. On the basis of this, the researchers calculated users’ average sleep duration and resting heart rate, and then looked for any deviations.

If their weekly average sleep was not below their overall average and average weekly heart rate was significantly above their overall, it was flagged as abnormal.

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The weekly estimates for flu-like illness provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s were compared with the above drawn data. The study concluded that fitness trackers can be considered as a disease surveillance tool.

But the question remains: will such a thing work in India?
While a lot many people here in India do use fitness trackers, but no significant data is collected by any organisation in particular who can analyse the intricacies of such a study and draw concrete conclusions over it.

In fact, stringent data laws by the Health Ministry also proposes that data collected by hospitals and healthcare be secure with total control in the hands of the individual.

So, will the Fitbit revolution be able to prevent epidemics in India? Only, time will tell.

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About the Author

An eccentric foodie and a die-hard falooda lover, Deeksha loves riding scooty in search of good street food! Being a full-grown adult, she is shamelessly addicted to stationary and all-things cutesy. Excellent in making spontaneous plans in town and abroad, she is perpetually bitten by the travel bug. ...Read More

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