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Funding for new 4TU Health program: Tackling chronic disease prevention through real-life monitoring and context-aware intervention design

A new program has been approved by the 4TU.Federation on the call “High Tech for a sustainable future”: https://www.4tu.nl/nl/nieuws/!/256187/call_hightech/. The name of the approved program is:

Tackling chronic disease prevention through real-life monitoring and context-aware intervention design

This program features a unique combination of disciplines, involving physical, life, ICT, design, behavioural and social sciences. The consortium is composed of researchers from all 4TU’s and within each university from multiple faculties/departments, and is thus uniquely suited to deliver this program’s promise, as it combines in-depth nutrition and nutrition behavior knowledge with the technological knowledge of lifestyle sensors, the design of lifestyle interventions for groups of people, the ability to seamlessly integrate sensing technologies into people’s daily lives, and the expertise on tailoring feedback to individuals on their nutrition and physical activity data, well aware of what can persuade them to make healthy choices in real life.

Within the University of Twente,  the groups BSS, HMI, IxD and BMS will work together in this program as this is a typical CMC program.

Figure: The project focuses on physical activity and nutrition behaviour, and involves different levels: the individual, group, and societal level. Sensor systems are developed and combined with questionnaire instruments to assess people’s behaviour. This information is processed and used as input for designing behavioural interventions that also address these different levels. On their turn, the effectiveness of the interventions is evaluated using repeated assessments. The sensor systems, behavioural assessments, and designed interventions may vary in the levels they engage.

This program aims at addressing the following research questions:

  • How can sensor data, gathered at different levels in a system (at the individual, in the household, in an environment), be combined to design more effective lifestyle interventions?
  • How can momentary measurements (e.g., activity, health parameters, thoughts, mood) be used to dynamically adapt effective lifestyle interventions?
  • How can technology support individualized coaching processes?
  • How can we design and validate systems and services that prevent chronic illnesses?
  • How can we design interventions that bridge the personal and social sphere (such as nuclear families) and will such interventions be more effective than those targeted at individuals?
  • How can we enrich existing survey-based field data of high-risk populations with real-life, realtime sensor data?
  • How can we measure long-term, real-life impact by using novel approaches to longitudinal field research?

While answering these questions, there are a number of technical and operational challenges:

  • Can we acquire, transport and process the obtained data in way that is secure and preserves privacy, also for longer periods of time?
  • Can we represent/visualize the data in a meaningful and actionable way for the users, caregivers and researchers involved?

This research program will deliver on the midterm (4 years):

  • Food intake measurement methods and physical activity monitors that will be used by people motivated to live healthy, because they are non-demanding and can be seamlessly integrated into daily life and that are accurate enough to measure the effect of interventions.
  • Innovative ways (supplementing weaknesses of experience sampling methods) to study people’s motivation and engagement with behaviour changing interventions.
  • Interventions and coaching strategies targeted at individuals and social groups that lead to sustained, long term, behaviour change.
  • Interventions and coaching strategies that use data from the individual, group and societal levels to effectively tailor interventions in context and time.

On the long term (6+ years):

  • Effective interventions and coaching strategies for a broader group of people, including people that are vulnerable and hard to reach.
  • Effective interventions that target people not (yet) motivated to change their behaviour.
  • Interventions that dynamically adapt while people become more or less motivated over time.
  • Holistic automatic sensing and monitoring integrating physical, emotional, and social features.