A teddy bear in the arms of a child with diabetes can change health care.

At least, Jerry the Bear can.

Yesterday kicked off the sixth autumn mega-version of the Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. Co-founded by Matthew Holt and Indu Subaiya, a long-time health analyst and physician, respectively, this meeting features new-new tools, apps and devices aimed at improving individual and population health, as well as health processes and workflows for physicians, hospitals, pharma, and other stakeholders in the health care ecosystem – even health lawyers, who met on October 7 to discuss up-to-the-minute  e-health law issues.

Yesterday was also the inaugural Body 2.0 meeting, in which I participated. The meet up was sited away from the Hilton Hotel’s Health 2.0 meetings, instead located in the Terra Gallery, way south of Market Street. Organized by Dr. Alan Greene, pediatrician and child advocate for healthy food and kids’ health, Cheryl Greene, producer/guress of DrGreene.com, and Robin Friedlander of Health 2.0, the event focused on the consumer aspects of Health 2.0: food, self-tracking, environment, exercise (including a helpful Kaiser Thrive walking exhibit and real walk around the Embarcadero during the day, quite literally walking the talk!), and helpful apps such as Azumio’s mobile health tools and Pilljogger’s medication adhreence programs. On the foodie front, I was particularly happy to sample the “super-drinks” from Kevita – in particular, the lemon ginger variety.

I gave a talk at Body 2.0 called HealthcareDIY: It’s Personal, a mashup of my parents’ and my personal health records and a family scrapbooked, capped by my cholesterol numbers turnaround. I will upload this presentation to SlideShare later this week for Health Populi readers’ review.

I had the pleasure of walking the exhibition floor with my long-time colleague Mary Cain, with whom I collaborated for many years when we were both affiliated with Institute for the Future. Mary is now one of the leading experts in user-centered design and health behavior change, so touring a vendor floor of health tools and apps with her opens up new avenues for thinking which, on my own, I would not have ideated.

In particular, our time spent with Podimetrics, a start-up of a smart group of folks from MIT, caught our attention. The team includes a physician, engineers, designers — all focused on solving one big problem for diabetics: fending off foot ulcers. A floor mat incorporates tiny sensors which can assess circulation and key metrics that can predict foot issues in diabetics that could prevent the ultimate loss of the foot via amputation – the endgame for ulcers gone awry. There is tremendous potential in this device mat which I’m excited to track.

And now, to Jerry, who is the title of this post. Mary and I returned to the Hilton to experience the end of the Patients 2.0 meet-up, led by Sarah Krug who heads up the Society for Participatory Medicine. Sarah organized a Shark Tank framework for health technology developers to compete vis-a-vis a judging panel of experienced patients. Among the many innovations, one was deemed the winner: Jerry the Bear, from Sproutel, a start-up.

Sproutel is led by two people with vision, energy, and joy: Hannah Chung and Aaron Horowitz, who met up at Northwestern University with their design and engineering hats, respectively, colliding in a vision of creating an engaging device to help kids with diabetes. Both had their personal stories dealing with health that drove them to this vision: Hannah, with a parent dealing with diabetes; and Aaron, with his own child health issues. It is this passion we often see resulting in successful health ventures that take a long view, among them PatientsLikeMe and CureTogether, both driven by people with intense personal passions.

The prototype of Jerry the Bear has been realized, as Hannah and Aaron negotiated with their Northwestern professors for time and education far afield from the bricks and mortar campus. The students moved to Providence, RI, where they work in an incubator and attracted financing to get Jerry the Bear into its prototype state. I’m hugging Jerry in this photo, and you can tell I’m already a fan. Thank you, Gregg Masters, @2healthguru, for taking the pic. (Sidebar: Providence is the home of Hasbro toys. Providential?)

Health Populi’s Hot Points: I am a devotee of user-centered design, the power of play, and health engagement. Jerry incorporates all three of these factors, and his potential is tremendous for health care. Beyond childhood diabetes, Jerry can work wonders at the other end of the age spectrum with people aging at home to help with medication adherence, reminders to eat, and other aging-in-place support. I also note that my mother-in-law reacquainted herself with stuffed toys and dolls in her later years, and Jerry could have been a fun companion for her had he been available at the time.