The George Institute wins the judges' vote in Google Impact Challenge

The George Institute’s lifesaving SMS program has been awarded $750,000 in this year’s Google Impact Challenge by a panel of judges including Lucy Turnbull, CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall, David Gonski and the worldwide head of, Jacquelline Fuller.

The simple but ingenious project to prevent chronic diseases such as heart attack, kidney disease, lung disease and diabetes via text messages won the judges' vote announced today at Google’s Australian headquarters in Sydney.

The funds will enable the TEXTCARE program by The George Institute for Global Health to reach 100,000 Australians with cardiovascular disease over the next year. The project will then be rolled out to countries such as China and India and expanded to cover all types of chronic diseases which affect 700 million people globally.

Professor Clara Chow, Director of Cardiovascular Division at The George Institute, said: ‘It’s a fantastic honour as we were up against some incredible finalists. We also are delighted to be able to work with such an innovative company such as Google.

“This award will make a huge difference to the lives of people here in Australia and around the world. We have already proven our project works, prevents heart attack and stroke and enables people to live healthier and longer lives. Now we can take this into the community and really start to make a difference.”

TEXTCARE is a personalised text messaging support program designed to support people with a whole range of chronic diseases. It uses complex algorithms to deliver SMSs that encourage people to make changes such as taking their medications as prescribed, stopping smoking, taking up exercise or eating more healthily.

Studies already led by The George Institute showed dramatic results with people receiving the texts nearly 1.4 times as likely to exercise, as well as 44 per cent more likely to control their blood pressure and 33 per cent more likely to quit smoking. Research has also found the texts can double the odds of people taking their medications correctly.

Kerry Doyle, NSW CEO at The Heart Foundation which supported the project said: “We’re absolutely delighted to see this fantastic and deserving program take out the judges’ award, it’s such a simple concept but so powerful in its potential to save lives.

“The Heart Foundation is proud to have been part of the Google Impact Challenge project team and we look forward to seeing where it goes next!”

The Google Impact Challenge asked Australian-based charities how they would change the world through innovative technology. The George Institute was one of three finalists to receive $750,000 awarded by the panel of judges. A further two projects – The Great Barrier Reef Foundation and Nature Conservancy Australia - also received the same funds by winning the People’s Choice award.

The George Institute will also receive mentorship and training from both Google and Social Ventures Australia.