NASA awards Oklahoma an education grant

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently awarded an education grant to Oklahoma State University to encourage high school students to pursue careers in science, United Press International reports. The grant includes roughly $2.6 million for the first year, with the potential for four additional one-year options. Specifically, the grant will support implementation of the Interdisciplinary National Science Program Incorporating Research Experience (INSPIRE) at NASA Centers and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Part of NASA's education strategy to attract and retain students in science-related disciplines, the program aims to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to pursue experience in science. Under the grant, Oklahoma State University will provide administrative services for student recruitment, online resources, project logistics and program evaluation. Participating students will have the opportunity to experience summer programs at NASA facilities and will gain access to a variety of online resources, as well as engage in special video conferences with NASA scientists and engineers (UPI, 3/31/08).

Yahoo launches Web site for females

Yahoo Inc. on Monday launched Yahoo Shine—a new Web site specifically targeting women, the San Jose Business Journal reports. According to the company, the site offers nine categories ranging from fashion and beauty to parenting, and will feature content from lifestyles publishers such as Condé Nast and Hearst. Shine particularly targets women ages 25 to 54 and will provide advertisers "with a single lifestyles destination to reach this coveted demographic," according to officials (San Jose Business Journal, 3/31/08).

National health data network to include Google, Microsoft PHRs

Federal officials on Wednesday announced plans to integrate the Nationwide Health Information Network with personal health record databases launched by Google and Microsoft, Government Executive reports. Speaking at the Defense Health Care Information Technology(IT) Conference in Washington, D.C., Charles Friedman, the COO of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, also said that ONC plans to expand the NHIN this year to include electronic health record networks operated by the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Indian Health Service and multicommunity integrated health care systems. Friedman, however, offered few details on how the network would integrate the PHR applications. One health IT vendor executive suggests that plans to link these systems to the network, as well as community health care delivery systems, indicate that ONC is looking to expand the network more locally (Brewin, Government Executive, 3/27/08).

NASA awards innovative research contract

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently awarded a $36 million research contract to the U.S. National Institute of Aerospace Associates (NIAA), United Press International reports. The Hampton, Va.-based institute will use the grant to conduct cutting edge aerospace and atmospheric research, develop new technologies and help prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers, according to NASA officials (UPI, 3/27/08). 

Pennsylvania to launch statewide health data exchange

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) on Thursday signed an executive order to create the Pennsylvania Health Information Exchange (PHIX), which will provide the information technology architecture necessary to support interoperable electronic health records and electronic prescribing statewide, Pennsylvania Office of the Governor/Biloxi Sun Herald reports. Part of the governor's larger Prescription for Pennsylvania health care reform plan, PHIX will enable physicians, hospitals, pharmacies and other authorized health care providers to share patient data captured at the point of care. In addition, officials expect PHIX to reduce duplicative tests and boost physicians' access to patients' prescriptions, laboratory tests, radiology exams and hospital discharge notes. According to Rendell, greater access to information will ensure that "less time will be wasted waiting for patients' charts and for processing referrals. And, reporting of vital statistics and diseases will be more efficient and complete" (Pennsylvania Office of the Governor/Biloxi Sun Herald, 3/27/08; Rendell's executive order).

Utah launches online database of patients' personal stories

The Utah Department of Health's Bureau of Health Promotion is launching an online database, called the Utah Health Story Bank, that enables consumers to post personal stories about chronic disease, healthy lifestyle changes, traumatic injuries or violence, the AP/Provo Daily Herald reports. According to a spokesperson for the bureau, facts and statistics are valuable, "but to really inspire people to make change, you need the human element." There is no limit on the number of stories that an individual can submit, and stories can address any chronic disease, injury or domestic abuse. All stories are screened prior to being posted for language and content ((Dobner, AP/Provo Daily Herald, 3/25/08; Government Technology, 3/25/08).

Kentucky college launches online computer, engineering masters programs

The University of Louisville is now offering two new online graduate degrees through its J.B. Speed School of Engineering, Business First of Louisville reports. The new degrees include a master of science (MS) in computer science and an MS in civil engineering with an emphasis in transportation engineering. Courses for the computer science MS will address algorithms, computer networks, databases, artificial intelligence, software engineering, distributed systems, advanced data warehouses, Internet applications, modeling and analysis, numerical analysis, performance evaluation, experimental design, digital image processing, simulations and data mining. Meanwhile, courses for the transportation engineering MS will include traffic engineering, environmental analysis of transportation systems, geometric highway design, global positioning systems theory and applications, geographic information systems applications in transportation, transportation planning and urban development, pavement design and fundamentals of intelligent transportation systems (Business First of Louisville, 3/27/08).

Wii remote adapted to military robot

Two U.S. Department of Energy scientists in Idaho have reportedly adapted technology from Nintendo's Wii remote to control a mine-clearing robot, United Press International reports. According to Sky News, the researchers, David Bruemmer and Douglas Few, adapted the video game controller, which harnesses wireless technology that detects three dimensional movement, to control Packbot—a robot with bomb disposal capability. The researchers note that operating the Wii remote is more instinctive than traditional controllers, which can take too much of the user's attention and prevent the operator from concentrating fully on data gathered by the machine. Meanwhile, the researchers also are working on adapting the Apple iPhone to help soldiers more efficiently collect data from robots, New Scientist reports (UPI, 3/27/08).

USDA unveils Web-based personalized nutrition planner

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion recently released a free online tool to help users assess the nutritional value of their diets, USA Today reports. The tool compiles data on a user’s age, gender, weight, height and level of physical activity to calculate recommended calories, grains, vegetables, fruit, milk and protein consumption. In addition, the tool offers what experts call realistic tips for reaching these goals, which are based on the USDA’s 2005 Dietary Guidelines, as well as choices for how to achieve or maintain a healthy weight. Meanwhile, USDA officials later this year plan to introduce additional tools that will specifically target the dietary needs of nursing mothers and children ages 2 to 5 (Terwilliger, USA Today, 3/26/08).

AHRQ tool compares state-level care quality improvements

The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) on Wednesday added new features to its online tool that provides state-specific care quality data, AHA News Now reports. Based on data from the 2007 National Healthcare Quality Report, the State Snapshot tool includes summaries of health care quality and statistics on 149 care quality measures encompassing a range of common conditions. It also provides state rankings for 15 targeted quality measures. The new features, meanwhile, include a section on “state contextual factors” that details state-specific demographics and a section on states’ progress toward achieving goals of the federal Healthy People 2010 initiative as well as data on diabetes care and disease-prevention strategies (AHA News Now, 3/26/08; AHRQ release, 3/26/08).

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