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Health Trackers

How Technology is Helping Us Monitor and Improve Our Health

Richard MacManus

New consumer technology is empowering us to take control of our day-to-day health. Leading tech writer Richard MacManus looks at what is out there now and what is in development, and what this might mean for our health in the future.

Health Trackers tells the story of the rise of self-tracking — the practice of measuring and monitoring one’s health, activities or diet. Thanks to new technologies, such as smartphone apps and personal genomics, self-tracking is revolutionizing the health and wellness industries. Through interviews with tech developers, early adopters and medical practitioners, Richard MacManus explores what is being tracked, what tools and techniques are being used, the best practices of early adopters, and how self-tracking is changing healthcare.

The first eight chapters focus on a particular type of, or approach to, self-tracking, for example, diet, daily activity and genetics. The final two chapters look at how the medical establishment is adopting, and adapting to, self-tracking. This timely book covers technologies still early in their evolution but poised to go mainstream, and rather than look at how to use specific gadgets, it focuses on the philosophy and usefulness of self- tracking in its many forms. Many of us are curious about it, but don’t understand the benefits (and sometimes risks) of these tools and practices. With no comparable book on the market, Trackers is the first to focus on consumer technologies and to help ordinary people negotiate the new health landscape.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 224Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4422-5355-1 • Hardback • August 2015 • $36.00 • (£24.95)
978-1-4422-5356-8 • eBook • August 2015 • $35.99 • (£24.95)
Richard MacManus, is the founder of technology blog readWrite.com. Widely read globally, it focussed on the US market and was syndicated by the new York times from 2008–2011. In 2011, Richard sold readWrite to San Francisco-based saY media and in 2012 left his job there as editor-in-Chief to write this, his first book. As readWrite’s founder, he is widely recognized as a leader in articulating what’s next in technology and what it means for society at large. He became interested in health technology when diagnosed with type I diabetes and he has written many articles about consumer health products and trends.

1: Buster Benson’s self-tracking odyssey
2: The pedometer on steroids: tracking activity with Fitbit
3: Diet wars: tracking food with MyFitnessPal
4: The tao of weight tracking
5: How useful is genetics? Me & my 23andMe results
6: Inception: tracking the brain
7: Bacteria nation: tracking the microbiome with uBiome
8: The health dashboard: TicTrac
9: The modern doctor: Dr. Robin Berzin
10: Tracking + medicine: MD Revolution
Tech blogger MacManus introduces readers to the 'self-tracking revolution' in health and the technology driving it in this well-written overview. MacManus covers the ubiquitous Fitbit tracker, gives a nod to the Apple Watch, and describes MyFitnessPal, the online health and calorie tracker that debuted in 2004 and boasted 40 million users by 2013. He also introduces the Internet-connected Withings scale. Other services covered here include 23andme, a DNA-testing company, and Curious, an online community designed to crowdsource information about diseases. As he cautions, the information these services can uncover may not always be welcome. Further topics are the 'brain dock' clinics in Japan, where people go to be scanned for brain diseases, and Neuroprofile, described by its developer as a 'brain imaging and interpretation' service. As important as the products and services MacManus discusses are the dilemmas he presents: changes in the roles of doctors, unresolved privacy issues, and unanswered questions about who will bear the costs associated with these tools. What begins as a lighthearted and informative look at useful new devices quickly becomes a thought-provoking study of health care in a brave new world.
Publishers Weekly

People are fixated on numbers: credit score, gas mileage, Facebook likes. That includes health data, too: weight, cholesterol level, blood pressure. Increasingly, we are able to measure, outside the doctor’s office, our health numbers. Consider diabetics who regularly check their blood sugars at home or hypertensives who record their blood pressure readings. Recently, health tracking has gotten even easier. MacManus, originator of a technology blog, interviews entrepreneurs, inventors, and physicians and describes products integral to health-tracking services. Notable names include the Fitbit tracker (A 'pedometer on steroids'), 23andMe (direct-to-consumer DNA testing), and MyFitnessPal (a calorie counter). MacManus expresses concerns about protecting the privacy of personal data, the risk of being overwhelmed by too much information, and the fact that not everything a person monitors has a practical purpose yet. He muses about the future: sensors integrated into clothing, implants in the body, even detectors in the toilet bowl. Yet staying well entails more than gadgets, sensors, and apps. It requires motivation to improve one’s health behavior and a commitment to caring for mind and body.

Health Trackers is a timely and insightful read that demonstrates how technology can increase our awareness of our bodies. The book also sends a clear message to the medical society on the benefits of self-tracking for health care management. MacManus’ own journey through diabetes and self-tracking [will spike] interest to learn more about the value of these technologies in clinical practice.
AMWA Journal