Future Technology to Preserve College Student Health and Foster Wellbeing (StudentHealth)

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    The health risks associated with student life on college campuses are both hidden and overt. The array of challenges that college students have to navigate ranges from academic performance to social relationships, financial concerns, adaptation to stark socio-economic and cultural differences, and development of a civic and professional identity. Most students (80%) say that they find the college environment high pressure and stressful, and some evidence suggests that we are seeing higher levels of college student stress, anxiety and depression than ever previously. Whereas subjective distress quietly undermines some students’ wellbeing and academic performance, the high stress and new freedom leads others to cope in visibly destructive ways by engaging in substance abuse, unsafe sex, or even suicide. Most silent of all, many students adapt to college life by adopting unhealthy eating and sedentary habits that then linger on into later life, leaving them susceptible to chronic disease.

    This is an interesting time in the development of mobile, connected and computational health systems. There is considerable industrial interest in the development of health trackers, growing interest in quantified-self, the emergence of a computational health research community with major conferences (e.g., Wireless Health), research programs (Smart and Connected Health), and studies that are beginning to link continuous data on behavior, stress, and physical health (Mobile Big Data to Knowledge). On the other hand, there are daunting technical, privacy, and practical challenges associated with sensing, integrating, analyzing, and conveying data on physical and mental health. Also, at an institutional level, universities that hope to use technologies to improve student health will need to surmount the obstacle that 66% of colleges have no integration that connects data or services on students’ physical health with that on their mental health. However, the growing adoption of sensor-enabled wearables and smartphones on college campuses creates a potential infrastructure workaround that could support significant breakthroughs in the assessment and advancement of student health.

    We propose to organize an NSF sponsored workshop on Future Technology to Preserve College Student Health and Foster Wellbeing (StudentHealth) with the goal of harnessing and developing technologies to improve the physical and emotional health and well-being of students on campus. We aim to discuss what biomedical and technological knowledge is ready to be applied and to begin a dialogue on what breakthroughs remain needed to radically reduce some of the most pressing health risks on college campuses. Student health challenges to be addressed are: high levels of stress and emotional distress, the adoption of unhealthy eating, physical activity, and substance use behaviors, and the onset of cardiometabolic risk factors including overweight/obesity. The goal of the proposed StudentHealth workshop is to bring together leading researchers in computer science and in the biomedical and behavioral sciences to discuss near-term and longer term advances in science and technology that are needed to preserve college student health and promote long-term health and wellbeing.
    Effective start/end date7/1/156/30/17


    • National Science Foundation (IIS-1545751)


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