Zuum is a streamlined health app from the team at Washington University School of Medicine that developed the award-winning and long-running health website Your Disease Risk.

Adopting the same framework as that scientifically validated tool, Zuum provides risk estimates for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, lung cancer and colon cancer, as well as breast cancer for women and prostate cancer for men. The tool also lets users explore specific steps to lower their risk and to see exactly how making such positive changes (like losing weight or stopping smoking) can impact their future risk.

To make the questionnaire as brief as possible, Zuum uses a single multiple-choice dietary frequency question instead of the multiple dietary questions used in the longer Your Disease Risk tools. Users are asked to check off food and drink items in a series that they have “on most days.” Though shorter than the more standard approach, a study of similarly brief diet questions suggests this approach should provide a good estimate of intake that can be used in risk calculations (study).

An early version of the Zuum tool was found to be user-friendly and to provide useful patient data in a research project in medical practices at Partners HealthCare in Boston. Direct evidence of the tool’s accuracy should be available in 2012. Analyses are currently ongoing using data from the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study cohorts to calculate the tool’s validity at predicting the risk of colon, lung, breast and prostate cancers.

Though validation of Zuum is pending, the methodology used in its development, which builds upon established and validated tools, suggests it provides a good general estimate of disease risk that can help users make lifestyle changes and further explore their health habits.

The Zuum team is led by chronic disease epidemiologist Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH, who is professor of surgery and medicine at Washington University School of Medicine and deputy director of the Institute for Pubic Health at Washington University in St. Louis.

Other core members of the team include: Heather Corcoran, who is associate professor of communication design in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts (WU) and Principal of Plum Studio; and Hank Dart, MS, who is a health communications specialist and project leader for the Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine.

Mobile development by Coolfire Solutions.