A woman holding a smartphone displaying the Food Hospital app

The Food Hospital

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The biggest scientific studies into using food as medicine.

iOS, Facebook and web apps designed to extend the life of on-screen trials, developing data-driven involvement of an audience concerned or interested about their own health conditions. The apps were built for general ease of use, user nudging / participation, and to allow users to track the effects that a food had on their condition.

As part of Channel 4′s The Food Hospital, Mudlark created the ‘Big Food Trials’ apps for iPhone, Facebook and web.

The Food Hospital series was based around the premise of ‘using food as medicine’ and featured an eight-part prime-time television series (Betty), a comprehensive website with quizzes, recipes, nutritional information about various food stuffs (Maverick), and the Big Food Trials apps (Mudlark).

In the on-screen Food Hospital television programme, members of the public undertook a handful of scientific trials to measure the effect of certain foodstuffs on common health complaints, such as sleep/insomnia, high cholesterol and blood pressure.

The trials were designed with our scientific partners at the Rowett Institute (Cholesterol, Blood Pressure, Memory Skills) and Sleepio (Sleep/insomnia). In each case, it was important to design a trial that would be as close to scientific as a non-clinical open, public trial could be, as well as ensuring that it was designed to fit into the user/triallist’s life with minimum fuss.

The information that a user provides is presented back to them, via graphs and charts showing their involvement and any changes in readings (such as sleep quality).

The Food Hospital web app being shown on Channel 4.

The mass of (anonymised) data that was collected by the triallists was analysed by our science partners and presented back to the television audience as drop-in inserts. The turnaround between the scientists receiving the data and it hitting the screen was no more than a week — a very high profile use of live data.

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