Become a citizen scientist with SMART Study

By Costa Maragos Posted: April 17, 2017 10:00 a.m.

Dr. Tarun Katapally, a population health researcher and assistant professor at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, has helped develop a smartphone app to engage citizens in creating active urban communities.
Dr. Tarun Katapally, a population health researcher and assistant professor at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, has helped develop a smartphone app to engage citizens in creating active urban communities. Photo courtesy of Tarun Katapally

Having an active lifestyle has many health benefits and now, how you move and stay active, could make a difference in your community.

The SMART study is being led by Dr. Tarun Katapally, a physician and a population health researcher and assistant professor at the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy. His team consists of an impressive list of interdisciplinary researchers from across the country.

“Understanding why people are active is important, but knowing how, where, when and with whom they are physically active, is critical to inform policy,” says Katapally.

Here’s where you come in.

The study engages residents as “citizen scientists” by asking them to use their smartphones to not only collect data on their physical activity, but also use functions of smartphones such as camera and audio recording, to map barriers and facilitators in their communities.

Katapally and his research team have developed a smartphone app that uses built-in features including GPS, accelerometer, camera, Wi-Fi, bluetooth and gyroscope.

“Active living isn’t just exercise, it could be incorporated into every aspect of life – walking, biking to work or to a grocery store, standing at your desk at work, going to a park with your family, among other daily activities,” says Katapally who is a big proponent of active living.

He stays active by trying to be outside as much as possible, whether it is hiking, cross-country skiing, canoeing, or simply a walk in the park. He believes that we can be highly active and highly sedentary on the same day, and the trick is to avoid sitting as much as possible.

“We’re hoping the results of the study will allow policy-makers to develop evidence-based active living policies and programs specific to their jurisdictions,” he says.

Participants are being asked to keep track of their activity for eight days per season.

“We’ve set this up so it is easy for any adult in Moose Jaw, Regina, and Saskatoon to go to  www.smartstudysask.com and become a citizen scientist,” says Katapally.

Registrations are now taking place. An easy to navigate site has been set up that explains the research and how you can take part.
 
The SMART Study has been made possible thanks to funding by the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation.

“Dr. Katapally’s work is just one example of how we are working together to build and broaden Saskatchewan’s capacity for innovative health research that has an impact on the health of our residents,” says Patrick Odnokon, interim CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation.
 
The project has also received key support from the University of Regina, University of Saskatchewan, the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, ParticipAction, Sask Sport, Ministry of Parks, Culture, and Sport, and YMCA locations in Moose Jaw, Regina and Saskatoon. Each Y location in each city is offering a free one-week pass for ‘citizen scientists’ in every season they contribute to the study.

For more information on the SMART study please visit here.