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A government program is giving out 10,000 Fitbits to help measure Americans’ health

A government program is giving out 10,000 Fitbits to help measure Americans’ health


But will the data be accurate?

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Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Fitbit is the first wearable company to get the green light to participate in the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) All of Us program. All of Us was initially started by President Obama in 2015 under the name Precision Medicine Initiative, and is an open research project aimed at discovering how individual differences inform health, and how participants can learn about and contribute to their own health.

The program is aiming to get 1 million Americans to eventually enroll in the program, and has just purchased 10,000 Fitbit devices for participants to use, as reported by TechCrunch. Fitbit was chosen for several reasons, including broad compatibility and the device’s ability to hold a charge for several days.

Two Fitbit models will be available for participants to use — the Charge 2 and Alta HR. Adam Pellegrini, Fitbit’s health solutions general manager, told TechCrunch it is using the devices in order to gain lifestyle information. “Sleep, heart rate information, physical activity, those are all essential elements,” he said. “We will be able to give a real sample of energy levels, how people are sleeping, their walking — those type of things. We’re getting that information as people live their normal lives.”

In theory, Fitbit’s addition to All of Us could help give a more complete look at the data they’re collecting. But there are a couple hinderances. In 2015, a research firm found that about one-third of wearable owners stop using them after about six months. Part of the abandonment has to do with these devices’ accuracy. Last year, researchers found most wearable devices were not 100 percent accurate when measuring heart rate. Fitbit’s Charge HR was only accurate 84 percent of the time, and the company was hit with a lawsuit last year alleging some of its products were inaccurate by a “significant margin.” A spokesperson for Fitbit emphasized to The Verge last year that the trackers are not meant to be medical devices.