One of my research interests is how new technologies can be used to develop new knowledge about cities, and how that knowledge can in turn be applied to make better planning decisions. Therefore I’m excited to serve as a co-principle investigator in a new research project which recently received funding from the Social Sciences Annual Institute and the MCubed Diamond program here at Michigan. The project is led by Associate Professor of Information Tiffany Veinot, an expert in the field of community health informatics.
The project, titled “A ‘Big Data’ Approach to Understanding Neighborhood Effects in Chronic Illness Disparities,” aims to develop and validate new metrics of neighborhood factors that can help explain health outcomes. To do that, we will compile a unique database of existing data, as well as explore how new data sources such as social media posts might be used to analyze communities. Our focus will be on factors which influence the ability of people to manage chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and kidney disease. These factors include availability of healthy food, accessibility of medical services, and the difficulty for residents for management recommendations like exercising. We hope our new metrics might be taken up by the broader neighborhood effects research community.
I am leading two parts of the project. First, I will coordinate the focus groups we are planning to solicit feedback about knowledge gaps by practitioners and community leaders. Second, I will be working with the project team to design and implement a trial to assess smartphone and GIS-based methods for recording urban mobility. The community outreach relies on existing relationships between University researchers and communities in Southeast Michigan. Featuring an impressive interdisciplinary team and an ambitious one-year timeline, I know it will be a tremendous learning experience. Stay tuned for updates about what we learn.