As we are in the midst of the Hype Cycle for mHealth, the answer to the question, Health – is there really an app for that? has a loaded answer.

This will be evident during the panel on which I’m participating on Sunday 3/13/11, the first full day of health hosted as part of the legendary South by Southwest conference. I am absolutely gob-smacked thrilled to be sharing the stage with John DeSouza, President and CEO of MedHelp; BJ Fogg of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab; and, Margie Morris, clinical psychologist and senior researcher at Intel Labs. We’ll be shepherded by Gigi Peterkin of Edelman, who sits between Edelman Digital and Edelman Health. Thus this panel includes researchers on the leading-edge of health behavior, the role of technology for nudging people to do good by their health, and a leader in online health social networks that help people support their health and health care decisions. Then there’s my lens as a health economist, reading the market tea leaves soberly and strategically. With this line up, we’re sure to have an exciting, thought-provoking discussion on whether and how mobile health apps are impacting peoples’ health; whether apps can change peoples’ health behaviors; what market levers could support (or block) health consumers’ accessing, using and sustaining use of mobile health apps; and what the role of ‘others’ in peoples’ lives are in motivating behavior change.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  Props go to Shwen Gwee and  who now sits on the SXSW Advisory Board to inform the group on interactive health, along with his fellow 2010 Social Health Advisory team which included Dana Lewis, Reed Smith, and Tom Stitt. Without this group’s work in 2010 which shed light on the role of interactive and social in health, there would be no health track at SXSW – that is SXSW Health (Twitter hashtag #SXSWH). Most of the action on this track will be all day Sunday 3/13/11 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Austin.

There’s no doubt that mobile and social have come to health. In this early adoption phase on the S-curve, chaos usually ensues in nascent markets. There’s no hard, longitudinal data that actually makes the case for mobile apps in “health” yet — health as defined by the World Health Organization’s definition, which sits every day on the “About Jane” masthead of this blog: health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. While there are many apps to download and test over time before we get to that Whole Health Nirvana, this panel has no doubt that mobile and social in health will eventually get there. Together, we’ll pilot and learn and incorporate those learnings into better design along with aligned forces in peoples’ personal health ecosystems: more effective approaches to health literacy; accessible healthy foods and places to play, run and walk; and. health policy and financing approaches that align incentives for wellness and whole health throughout a person’s lifetime.