Public Health England (PHE), part of the UK's Department of Health, today launched a startup competition named Health X to get the nation's people "moving more and eating better". At an event in London, PHE revealed the Health X vision: competition entrants with winning products will receive marketing support from the NHS and PHE, mentoring and even some funding. 

The aim isn't to bring about medical research or pharmaceutical solutions, but instead focuses on consumer products that can benefit at an individual level. Indeed there's no time like the present - recent figures reported a dramatic rise in English obesity levels. By combining emergent tech talent with government scale and influence, PHE presumably hopes to combat this type of issue with tools that encourage healthy habit-forming.

Startup submissions must be at prototype-stage or beyond, and Health X lists the types of entry that would be "exciting" as: 

  • Food planners
  • Couch to 5k
  • Family activity promotions
  • SMS platforms as motivators of behavioral change
  • Zombie Run

Now there are lots of startups already working on this type of thing but the example companies that PHE brought along to the launch event are working on complex tech problems. Tictrac enables users to track almost all activities - from eating to exercising to monitoring blood pressure - in one dashboard, while Sleepio, the first product from BigHealth, provides cognitive behavioral therapy to insomniacs. 

Moreover, a chief aim of Health X appears to be opening up the personal health tech market to a wider market. The site states specifically that they're not looking for products that target existing (and perhaps tech-savvy) exercisers. It's not necessarily what the products do therefore, but the users they attract.

Startups are asked to make their submissions by 9am UK time on 1st August. 10 finalists will be selected and asked to present their products to a judging panel in London on August 11th. From these 10, up to three entries will be chosen. They will receive:

  • Up to £15,000 funding,
  • Marketing assistance via the PHE marketing database, which has 3.2 million users
  • Visibility on popular NHS websites such as NHS Choices which gets 10 million visitors a week
  • Mentoring and on-going business support from health care, marketing and product design experts

PHE has embarked on this initiative in partnership with the NHS, Tech City UK and The Telegraph.