HEAL-PH or Healthy Eating, Active Lifestyle, for Planetary Health was the winning mobile app in the FLExPHD Food is Life EXemplified Mobile App Development Competition for Planetary Health Diet. The competition was organized by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), in partnership with the National Academy of Science and Technology of the Philippines (NAST PHL) and the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST- PCAARRD). The Grand Finals Pitching and Demo Day was held on 28 June 2023 at SEARCA.

Team M1R4G3 bested 12 other finalists from all over the country, who had been shortlisted from 40 teams, which had, in turn, been selected from over 150 teams that initially joined the competition.

HEAL-PH aims to guide UPLB students to eat right, move more, and develop habits that improve their health today and our planet tomorrow. Using computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI), the app leverages the habit of students taking photos of their meals.

The app automatically analyzes these images, detecting and categorizing the food groups to assess nutritional content and diversity. HEAL-PH also interfaces with existing phone apps to track exercise, water intake, and sleep.

One of the app’s unique attributes was that from the get-go, HEAL-PH embraced a collaborative design approach. UPLB students contributed real-life photos of the food they consumed, photos that capture the local cuisine and food culture of UPLB. These were used to train the app’s AI. DevCom students also designed and pretested the infographics and video used to communicate the science of planetary health.

Another unique attribute of HEAL-PH was its utility for research. UPLB students who use the app are citizen scientists, contributing data that can be analyzed to gain insights into nutrition and health on a larger scale. This wealth of big data will be invaluable for researchers in understanding planetary health impacts to provide evidence-based recommendations for decision-makers.

HEAL-PH was developed by Team M1R4G3, an interdisciplinary group of faculty members and a student. Dr. Val Randolf M. Madrid and Rutherford Belleza are from UPLB’s Institute of Computer Science; Asst. Prof. Ann Cayetano and former Asst. Prof Anna Teresa Orillo are from the Institute of Human Nutrition and Food, Dr. Salvador P. Catelo is from the College of Economics and Management, and Asst. Prof. Avril Adrianne Madrid is from the Department of Science Communication at the College of Development Communication.