USC spearheads population health data project to reduce health disparities

University of Southern California received $1.2 million from the National Institutes of Health for its project that aims to apply digital health tools to reduce health disparities among underrepresented populations.

The four-year grant will support USC Schaffer Center for Health Policy and Economics' collaboration with Rand Corp. and Evidation Health. Through the project, a subset of nationally representative individuals pulled from an existing survey panel will receive a Fitbit device to collect metrics such as physical activity, sleep and heart rate.

USC will use Evidation Health's Achievement Platform, which allows people to share digital data from wearable devices with researchers, for the project. The researchers hope to generate a more comprehensive dataset from fitness trackers and smart watches because information collected primarily from those sources is from individuals who purchase the devices on their own, which tend to be young, healthy and female individuals, according to the July 28 news release.

"Current research is limited by a lack of complete and representative data sets. Our goal is to change this and ultimately better understand how different populations have different health behaviors and experience different social determinants of health," said Ritka Chaturvedi, PhD, biomedical engineer at USC and principal investigator for the project. "With that information we hope to create precision public health interventions that meet individual needs, rather than relying on our current one-size-fits-all approach."

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