Newswise — The University of Arkansas at Little Rock is one of five institutions sharing a $4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a multi-scale integrative approach to digital health. This collaborative, multi-institution grant will be used to promote smart health in Arkansas and West Virginia. 

Dr. Nitin Agarwal, UA Little Rock Jerry L. Maulden-Entergy endowed chair and professor of information science, will receive $600,000 for the study, entitled “Multi-scale Integrative Approach to Digital Health: Collaborative Research and Education in Smart Health in West Virginia and Arkansas,” which runs from August 2019 to July 2023. 

The other university partners include the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, West Virginia University, and West Virginia State University.

“Healthcare costs are on the rise nationally and significantly more so in Arkansas and West Virginia. This is due to high poverty rates in these states and a significantly large population that is affected by cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and a general lack of physical activity,” Agarwal said.

“To address these issues, we will conduct a collaborative, interdisciplinary, and a multi-scale integrative approach to trigger smart health initiatives with the goal to lower healthcare costs using artificial intelligence and big data analysis approaches. In addition to developing a big data and smart health research infrastructure, we will create education and outreach components to enhance the workforce in both states.”

To accomplish these goals, Agarwal will develop novel social media mining algorithms to study health behaviors in Arkansas and West Virginia, including health attitudes, intentions, health conditions, lifestyle choices, overall sentiment, and mood.

“Tapping into such an invaluable data trove is often challenging but rewarding,” Agarwal said. “We will study the effectiveness of health communities around predominant health issues in Arkansas and West Virginia and study the validity of social media data for examining patient-reported outcomes, assessing trust, influence, and misinformation in social media pertaining to health discourse.”

Agarwal heads the Collaboratorium for Social Media and Online Behavioral Studies (COSMOS) at UA Little Rock, which aims to be at the forefront of the ever-evolving field of social computing. COSMOS is leading several collaborative projects with total funding of more than $10 million from various U.S. federal funding agencies to address some of the most challenging problems of knowledge extraction from big social data and develop methodologies to diagnose novel pathologies of online social media.