HealthPartners, U of M researchers launch app to fight COVID-19 at neighborhood level

On Wednesday, HealthPartners and researchers at the University of Minnesota announced they’ve teamed up with developers to create a mobile app that provides users with data about the health of their neighborhood, helping them avoid potential COVID-19 hotspots.

A news release states the app is called SafeDistance. It crowdsources data down to the level of people’s census block groups. These census block groups usually contain around 1,500 people and most accurately reflect neighborhoods.

"People want clear information about their health and their neighborhoods. Those of us in health care and public health are limited in our ability to test, isolate and trace the contacts of possible COVID-19 cases," said Bjorn Westgard, MD, an emergency physician and population health researcher at the HealthPartners Institute. "This tool could help with both of those issues."

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Most current COVID-19 tracking maps only show COVID-19 data to the county level, which is not detailed enough to help public health officials contain outbreaks or target resources. Additionally, most tracking maps currently available only report cases confirmed by testing, representing a fraction of the infections spreading across the country, according to the news release.

Unlike similar apps, no account is required to use SafeDistance, data will not be used for-profit, and users will not be asked for identifiable information.

For more information on the app, click here.