In an effort to keep his community healthy, Los Altos teen Aristotle “Aris” Yang has created a website that provides people with personalized health recommendations.
Named GenkiGuide – the word “genki” is Japanese for “healthy” – the site aims to create an interactive experience for individuals, according to the 16-year-old, by considering physical traits such as age, gender, height, weight and daily practices to offer basic preventive health-care recommendations.
“My ultimate goal is to help people who are in need of a doctor,” the Monta Vista High School junior said, “because there’s a lot of people out there who do not have health insurance, or their doctors are too busy and they can’t remind patients to get certain things done.”
Aris is the site’s main developer and his dad, Dr. Hugo Yang, is GenkiGuide’s physician consultant. Factors such as physician shortages, lack of health insurance and access to electronic health notifications leave many people unsure of how to manage their own health, Dr. Yang said.
“The information is there (online); people just don’t know how to access it,” he added. “Genki-
Guide makes it easy because it caters toward each patient. You’re not looking at 500 recommendations and trying to filter which ones are important for you. It does it for you.”
Before users can access the personalized recommendations, they must fill out a questionnaire about their physical characteristics. Several recommendations will then appear, pulled from organizations such as the United States Preventive Services Task Force, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Cancer Society.
“These are the ones that primary care physicians tend to refer to and to use,” Dr. Yang said.
The recommendations include both the original medical jargon and a translated version comprehensible to the public. GenkiGuide only offers Grade A and B recommendations – preventive care with a greater chance of benefiting the patient compared to those of Grades C, D and I.
“What impressed me the most is the detail provided in the recommendations,” GenkiGuide user Jeff Roberts of Boulder Creek said. “I get the ‘what,’ but also a very detailed ‘why,’ and having a link to the background information is really helpful.”
Users can choose to fill out the questionnaire anonymously or create an account and access special features such as a “to-do” list to check off completed recommendations, custom reminders and email notifications for recurring appointments.
Although GenkiGuide can act as a “personal assistant,” Aris said it does not replace traditional physician care.
“It’s not supposed to supersede health care or health insurance, but it’s rather a tool to give information that people can use … for their health care,” he said.
Aris said his inspiration for GenkiGuide came when his mom received an electronic notification one day that she was due for a mammogram. He became curious as to how electronic health messages worked, especially for basic preventive care appointments, as he was suddenly reminded of his grandfather, who died of lung cancer.
“I asked my mom, ‘Well, did my grandfather get any of these reminders, so that maybe he could have gotten some treatment for lung cancer?’” Aris said. “And my mom said that he did not, so it made me feel bad knowing that maybe he could have done something about it so that he could have lived a little longer.”
Aris then asked his dad if a platform for health recommendations already existed, and the doctor confirmed that there was – but only for physician reference.
“When you read those recommendations, they’re in doctor speak, which makes it very hard,” Dr. Yang said.
That inspired Aris to create a similar platform, but for public access.
Aris said he began the project over the summer and completed it in late September, spending approximately 1,000 hours on it. He had his share of difficulties, such as bugs that could take multiple hours to fix. However, he was able to persevere and it “paid off in the end,” he said.
Aris is currently working to improve the website as more people start to use it. He said he intends to make GenkiGuide a tool that can bring tangible benefits to users.
“If at least one person can just take our questionnaire, get a checklist of recommendations and take action, I think that would be really successful,” he said.
For more information, visit genkiguide.com.