live / 2016

Using an app to increase awareness of air quality and empower individuals to protect their health

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IOES)

AirForU is an air quality app that provides real-time air quality information and is also a research tool to reduce air pollution-related health impacts, particularly for vulnerable populations.

Are any other organizations collaborating on this proposal?

UCLA Health

Please describe your project proposal.

We designed and launched an air quality app (AirForU) for iPhones and Android phones a few months ago. AirForU is specifically geared towards populations that are vulnerable to air pollution and currently has over 2400 users. For this project, we are proposing to enhance the app technology, incorporate new research methods, recruit more users and analyze the data to develop more effective strategies for protecting the health of sensitive populations.

Which of the live metrics will your proposal impact?​

  • Exposure to air toxins

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South LA
  • Westside
  • South Bay
  • Gateway Cities
  • Antelope Valley
  • County of Los Angeles
  • City of Los Angeles

Describe in greater detail how your proposal will make LA the best place to live?

Los Angeles continues to have some of the most polluted air in the nation. Densely populated urban cities such as ours are particularly prone to high levels of air pollution. Although everyone is affected by it, hundreds of thousands of people in LA such as asthmatics, young children, the elderly, pregnant women, people with heart disease, lung disease or compromised immune systems are particularly sensitive to the health hazards of air pollution. Reducing the health impacts of air pollution requires not just public policy, but also individual action.

To provide an interactive tool for Angelenos with easy access to air quality information, we developed and launched a free air quality app – AirForU – a few months ago for iPhones and Android phones. We use information from the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality monitoring and reporting network and provide it on our app as real-time air quality updates and next-day forecasts. Through AirForU we make air pollution, often invisible, more visible. So far we have about 2400 users and we have received tremendous positive feedback from many of them. By knowing when air pollutions levels are high based on real-time updates and next-day forecasts, app users are empowered to take measures to protect their health and their family’s health. Parents/caretakers can decide what times are best to their children outdoors to play; particularly for asthmatic children. Those who exercise outdoors frequently can determine best times to exercise outdoors.

AirForU is also a research tool; we collect research data through surveys in the app and embedded analytics to understand who is using this information and how they are using it. Current research on air quality communication is still undeveloped and through our project we hope to address the some of the existing research gaps. Research data from app users will help determine how to further engage sensitive people with air quality information, use targeted messages and alerts for specific populations, and develop additional strategies to reduce the health impacts of air pollution.

Through this proposal, we are planning to expand and improve our project by enhancing the app technology, incorporate new research methods, recruit more users and develop new strategies for protecting the health of sensitive populations. Our goal is to improve the communication of air quality information and associated health effects.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

A preliminary measure of success of this project is the number of app users. Currently we have about 2400 users and we hope to at least double the number. We will not only consider the number of users that download the app but also the number of users that use the app regularly, which is a better measure of success. Through data analysis, we will also determine what types of people are using the app i.e. specifically vulnerable populations.

Another measure of success will be determined by collecting feedback from users through a survey to assess how they used this information to protect their health and/or their family’s health.

The data analysis will enable us to address gaps in research and this will be another measure of success for our project. We will able to study which populations are most/least engaged with this information and improve air quality communication for people that are poorly engaged but could greatly benefit from this information.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money
  • Publicity/awareness
  • Community outreach