USC digital health database to eliminate ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach by focusing on marginalized group representation

The Los Angeles-based USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics is developing a digital health dataset aimed at effectively representing marginalized groups in medical research.

The project, named American Life in Real-time, will employ digital technologies to better understand the medical and social needs of underrepresented groups, which will foster the development of equitable public health initiatives. 

The research team will provide participants with Fitbit devices to track their physical activity, heart rate and sleep, as well as analyze monthly survey data. The project will oversample from marginalized groups, since most existing datasets are biased due to not gathering a participant body that accurately reflects the country’s demographic makeup.

“Current research is limited by a lack of complete and representative datasets. Our goal is to change this and ultimately better understand how different populations have different health behaviors and experience different social determinants of health,” Ritika Chaturvedi, PhD, the project’s principal investigator, said in a July 28 news release. “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.”

American Life in Real-time is funded by a four-year, $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

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