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NIH spends more than $1.4 million on app that connects Latina women for walks together

The NIH has supported the app's developer through two rounds of funding.

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Golden Horseshoe
Golden Horseshoe
(Just the News)
Updated: November 22, 2020 - 6:26am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The Golden Horseshoe is a weekly designation from Just the News intended to highlight egregious examples of wasteful taxpayer spending by the government. The award is named for the horseshoe-shaped toilet seats for military airplanes that cost the Pentagon a whopping $640 each back in the 1980s. 

This week, our award is going to the National Institute of Health (NIH) for spending roughly $1.4 million to develop an app that focuses on connecting Latina women in real-time for social walks. 

The National Institute On Minority Health And Health Disparities — a subsidiary of NIH — funneled the taxpayer dollars to Klein Buendel, Inc., a small, woman-owned health communication research and technology firm that, according to its website, "designs, develops, and evaluates public health interventions in collaboration with academic, public, and private partners." 

With this app — called "Caminemos Juntas!" or "Let's Walk Together!" — the company hopes to impact the health of Latina woman by "providing them with real-time opportunities to connect socially with the goal of walking." The app, which maps the users' location will "help Latinas connect with nearby walking partners." 

"Despite numerous interventions designed to increase physical activity, few are specifically tailored to Latinas, a population where higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases are present," reads the grant abstract.

"Caminemos Juntas! will be the first app that uses geo-location technology dedicated to walking with a social emphasis, for any population," said a spokeswoman representing the company. 

In 2015, the NIH invested about $620,000 in to the development of this app, and lavished another $815,000 in taxpayer funds on the project in 2018. The investment included allowing the organization to gather input from Latina community leaders on the potential efficacy of this idea, in addition to funding surveys that assess Latinas' smartphone usage patterns and response to technology-based health advice. Phase two of testing includes seeing if the app is actually effective in its goal of motivating Latina women to perambulate socially. 

According to government spending watchdog website Open the Books, Klein Buendel, a self-described small business, has received $42 million in federal grants in the past 12 years. 

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