CDC’s Solve the Outbreak App

Jun 18, 2013

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Mobile Gov Experiences are agency stories about creating anytime, anywhere, any device government services and info. This entry is a story shared by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) launched a free, educational iPad app called “Solve the Outbreak,” which lets users play the role of Epidemic Intelligence Service agents – the “Disease Detectives” who are on the front lines of new outbreaks wherever they occur. You can learn more about the Solve the Outbreak in this User Experience webinar.

Why We Did It

We created “Solve the Outbreak” in order to provide an effective means to educate young people about epidemiology and the spread of disease. Additionally, we wanted to provide a casual, enjoyable learning experience to students.

What We Did

First, we used plain language with a casual tone in order to appeal to our target audience (teen/young adult). On a similar note, we provided clear and intuitive interactions, along with elements of gamification(badges etc) to make the process of learning more fun and game-like.

How It Worked

The application operates on a leveling system, by which the user plays (learns) through leveling up and scoring. Throughout the levels, the user is provided with descriptions of outbreaks, clues to help them solve the outbreaks, and multiple choice questions asking what should be done for each situation.

What We Learned

By using plain language, simple definitions, a fun/humorous/casual tone, the design of our app provides a better user experience. Likewise, informal testing, a flexible development team, and slow content clearance throughout the development process allowed for the app’s success.

What’s Next

We have the potential to reach 24 million users by continuing to enhance user experience by crowd sourcing, analytic software, and a data driven approach.


Alex Casanova, CDC Innovations Lead

Sharon Mcaleer, CDC User Experience Lead

Cari Wolfson, User Experience Contractor