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Louisiana's CajunCodeFest Tackling Childhood Obesity Trend With Technology

LAFAYETTE, La., April 16, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Gumbo. Spicy, boiled crawfish. The Cajun two-step.

Louisiana's distinctive cuisine, music and cultures set it apart. But the Bayou State has something in common with the rest of the country that's far less appealing: increasing rates of childhood obesity.

The Center for Business and Information Technologies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is partnering with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, FiberCorps and innovators from the private sector who will use technology to help reverse that trend. CBIT will host CajunCodeFest, a computer programming competition, April 27- 28 in Lafayette, La.

"Competing teams will have just over 24 hours to analyze data, brainstorm ideas and create digital prototypes. By blending information and innovation, we can build a creative platform to improve kids' health," said Dr. Ramesh Kolluru, director of CBIT.

The stakes are high: the winning team will receive $25,000 and entry to the third annual Health Datapalooza, a national health-care technology conference and product showcase to be held in Washington, D.C., in June.

The stakes are even higher for the nation's children: one in three kids between the ages of 2 and 19 is overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Increasingly, children are being diagnosed with diabetes and heart disease. Direct medical costs for treating overweight and obese children are estimated at $3 billion per year.

CajunCodeFest is part of Innov8, an eight-day series of events in Lafayette focused on creativity in digital media, entrepreneurship and cultural arts. It's being held in conjunction with Festival International de Louisiane, the country's largest, free Francophone festival, which recently won the Best World Music Festival award.

Helping Kolluru organize CajunCodeFest is U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, who will speak at this year's event. Park helped create the innovative, where anyone can easily access public health data.

Park also helped establish Health Datapalooza. Last year, it featured 50 new products and services created using public data, including apps and websites to help patients find health information, locate doctors and better manage medications.