Health Trackers

How Technology is Helping Us Monitor and Improve Our Health

By (author) Richard MacManus

Publication date:

01 August 2015

Length of book:

224 pages


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9781442253551

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.
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.