Miramonte Elementary School in Clovis was one of only six California schools to get accepted into the FLUency program, a national school health initiative designed to help stop the spread of illness in the classroom using technology.
The free program, by San Francisco-based startup Kinsa, provides smart thermometers to all families in participating schools to help them detect illnesses going around their children’s schools. The thermometers are enabled by a mobile app that allows parents to take precautions by notifying them of what to do next (take medicine, see a doctor right away, etc.) depending on the reading.
“Kinsa was founded with a mission to track and stop the spread of illness,” said Nita Nehru, the FLUency director at Kinsa. “Our founder [Inder Singh] has a long history in public health. He was struck by the fact that in this day and age, we have so much real-time information on things like how to get downtown fastest with Google Maps, and where our friends are at any given moment using Facebook, etc. But we have so little information on when and where illness is spreading that we, as a society, are unable to put the correct resources toward stopping it.
“To collect the early indicators of spreading illness, our founder thought to himself: How do I collect information from people in their home at the first sign or symptom of an illness? And the answer to that was by re-imagining the thermometer. So, whereas a regular thermometer that you would pick up at the drugstore just gives you a number, the Kinsa thermometer is an app-enabled thermometer that serves not only to give you a temperature but also becomes your family’s health support system. So, it allows you to track fever, symptoms, medication, diagnosis and it also gives you guidance on next steps if your fever and symptoms are cause for concern.”
This year, FLUency received 4,000 applications from schools nationwide but only accepted 200. To be admitted into the program, schools must demonstrate they possess three things:
1. A passionate staff member. “First and foremost, we look to make sure that there is an excited and engaged official at the school who’s going to be championing this program and spearheading it,” Nehru said. “It also requires a little bit of parental input – you have to be checking the app and using it in order for this program to be useful. We want to make sure that there’s someone at the school who’s going to be spreading the word and getting parents to join the program.”
2. Engaged parents. “Secondly, we look for schools where there is an active and engaged parent population because parents have to be providing some input in order for the program to be a success,” she said.
3. Smartphone usage. “We also have to make sure that the school has a high enough level of smartphone usage,” Nehru added. “We want to make sure that at least 70-80 percent of the school’s families use smartphones.”
The Kinsa smart thermometer is also available for purchase at 5,000 retails stores nationwide, including Target, CVS, Best Buy and online on Amazon.