Spotlight on innovation – Meet Kathleen Healey, Ph.D.

Innovation Week, News

As part of Innovation Week (Sept. 28 – Oct. 2), UNeMed Corporation will spotlight the research of several UNMC inventors. Here, researchers discuss their passion for innovation and share their thoughts on the process.

OMAHA, Neb. (Sept. 17, 2009)—Obesity has been referred to as a national epidemic; nearly 55 percent of all Americans are either overweight or obese.

Obesity leads to several diseases and health issues including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Estimated costs attributed to obesity alone in the United States are approximately $99 billion annually.

Kathleen Healey, Ph.D., said the key to changing these statistics is education and behavioral modifications. Dr. Healey and her team, which includes a dietician, nurses and behavioral experts, developed the A-Wrist-A-Trac system.

The novel invention — a collection of color-coded bracelets — helps modify many types of behaviors, especially dietary intake. The bracelets track behavior and actions as they occur.

The method is simple. The bracelets are moved from one wrist to the other as an action is performed. Each bracelet color designates specific foods groups, as based on the USDA food pyramid.

“The idea of A-Wrist-A-Trac came to me as I reviewed the USDA Food Pyramid,” said Dr. Healey, who is an instructor in neurological sciences and a clinical associate with the College of Nursing.

Working in the field of multiple sclerosis, Dr. Healey sees patients on a daily basis. Prior to this, she worked with life style changes and risk factor modification in cardiovascular disease.

“Overall health influences disease state,” she said.

Dr. Healey’s team continues to study other uses for the A-Wrist-A-Trac system including medication guidance and monitoring of COPD, diabetes or other complex disease management regiments.

“It is important that future applications are scientifically-based,” she said. “There is value in all types of research especially behavioral studies in health care.”

Dr. Healey’s team has received national recognition for their innovation and have submitted their research results for publication.

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