The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has launched a developer challenge to create an application that gets people to take steps to improve their cardiovascular health.

The “Be One in a Million Hearts” Challenge was announced late last month, as a part of the Million Hearts Initiative by the ONC. The initiative aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes over five years by reducing the number of people who need treatment and improving the quality of care for those that do.

Submitted apps are expected to support the initiative by providing information about heart health; allow patients to enter health information such as their age, body mass index and cholesterol; and provide overall recommendations to a patient on how to improve their health.

The app should also be able to send a patient to electronic health records via the Direct Project, which is establishing standards and documentation to push data point to point in a way that will support more sophisticated interoperability in the future.

The first submissions for the challenge were being accepted on Monday, Oct. 3. The contest runs until the end of 2011. First prize is $50,000 and includes two free passes to the Health 2.0 spring conference and two additional passes to the conference where the app will be demoed.

A $20,000 prize will be given to the second place winner, while the app that comes in third will receive $5,000. The deadline for app submissions is Dec. 31.

Entries will be judged on the criteria of patient engagement, quality and accessibility of information and resources, targeted and actionable information, innovativeness and usability and platform neutrality. Bonus points will also be awarded for creating both English and Spanish versions.

For a copy of the rules and to enter, visit ONC’s website.