Health Promotion Technology for Underserved Populations: An Ecological Approach

  • Date
    February 2, 2012
  • Time
    10:00 AM
  • Location
    366 WVH


In the United States, ethnic minorities such as African Americans and individuals in low-income households disproportionately experience diet-related health problems such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. Eliminating these disparities requires innovative solutions and an appreciation of the ecological context of health, that is, the complex interplay of intrapersonal, interpersonal, environmental, and cultural influences on behaviors and attitudes. In my work, I have examined how information technology can help African Americans in low-income communities eat healthfully, given these multiple levels of influence on health.

In this talk, I will discuss interactive technologies that I designed to help lay people acquire locally and culturally relevant healthy eating strategies and advocate healthy eating to others within their community. These tools have allowed me to examine the affordances of several interactive computing platforms for encouraging health and wellness, including casual gaming, social computing and blogging, large public interactive displays, and mobile computing.

As a researcher of Human-Computer Interaction and health informatics, I use health behavior theories and models of health promotion to guide my human-centered approach to technology design. As such, I will describe how I have bridged the health and computer sciences to design new software systems. Furthermore, I will overview the results of fieldwork I conducted to evaluate the impact of these tools on participants’ health-related behaviors and attitudes. In particular, I will describe how designing these systems to account for the cultural and community-level influences on health, together with the rich presentation of information helped users acquire useful and engaging healthy eating ideas, begin changing their own eating habits, and become more effective health advocates. My work contributes to the growing body of research on consumer health informatics by showing the value of an ecological approach to designing and evaluating interactive systems for underserved populations.

Brief Biography

Andrea Grimes Parker is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the College of Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she works with Dr. Elizabeth Mynatt. She received a Ph.D. in Human-Centered Computing from Georgia Tech in 2011. Her research lies within the fields of human-computer interaction and health informatics. In particular, she examines how interactive computing applications can be designed to address health disparities affecting low-income and minority populations. In collaboration with researchers at Microsoft, she has also studied the future of human-food interaction research in HCI and explored the design of technologies to support family health. She obtained a B.S. in Computer Science from Northeastern University and received the Computing Research Association’s Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award in 2005. As a Ph.D. student, she received numerous awards to support her research, including a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship (2010-2011), Microsoft Research Fellowship (2008-2010), Google Anita Borg Scholarship (2007-2008), an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship (2005-2008), and a Yahoo! Key Technical Challenge Grant (2008). Her research has yielded best paper nominations at both the ACM CHI and CSCW conferences.