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Digital album puts focus on kids' health
Date:4/7/2009

Modern moms and dads snap thousands of photos, recording every drooling smile and flailing attempt to crawl. Until now, this frenzy of activity could be one more thing distracting parents from monitoring their child's health and developmental progress.

Now Julie Kientz at the University of Washington has built a high-tech tool that takes photos and video, creates an online diary and family newsletters, and at the same time tracks a child's developmental milestones. The multimedia system, called Baby Steps, combines sentimental snapping with medical record-keeping. Baby Steps feels like a fun toy for parents, but researchers found in a small pilot study that having it on their home computers doubled the parents' collection of medically relevant information.

Kientz, an assistant professor of human-centered design and engineering and the Information School, presents the results this week in Boston at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Co-authors are Rosa Arriaga and Gregory Abowd of the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Most parents can tell you the first time their baby smiled, or took his or her first step. But what about the first time a baby could adjust his or her gaze to look in the direction of a pointed finger, which an inability to do at a certain age indicates a possible risk of autism?

Pediatricians often ask parents to complete medical charts that record six categories of developmental milestones from birth to age five. Tracking this information may help with earlier diagnosis of conditions such as speech delays, autism and hearing or visual impairment.

"So much of the medical literature shows that the quality of decision making and diagnosis really depends on the amount of data that doctors have," said Kientz, whose research focuses on technology for medical and educational record-keeping.

In a perfect world, parents would record milestones as soon as they were observed. In the real world, busy pa
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Contact: Hannah Hickey
hickeyh@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert  

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