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Tech toolkit project promises to help foster healthy lifestyle choices

Burleson toolkit for health

Win Burleson will work with ASU colleague Eric Hekler on a do-it-yourself toolkit designed to help people make good personal health choices. Photo: Jessica Hochreiter/ASU

A behavioral scientist and an engineer at Arizona State University are teaming up to develop a technology-based, do-it-yourself toolkit to help people make good choices when it comes to maintaining personal health.

Combining expertise in human-computer interaction and behavioral science, Winslow Burleson and Eric Hekler want to give individuals an easy way to devise their own strategies for healthy living.

Burleson is an assistant professor in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.  Hekler is a clinical health psychologist and an assistant professor of nutrition in ASU’s School of Nutrition and Health Promotion.

They were recently awarded a research grant by Google based on their proposal for developing a “Self-Experimentation Toolkit for Fostering User-Driven Behavior Change.”

Their compact home-based toolkit is to include a Google tracking tool, a computing system with wireless sensors, and a “design portal” that will translate “lessons of behavioral science into personal and customizable behavior change strategies.”

The project will include a study aimed at gaining insight into effective strategies for behavioral changes that “go beyond prefabricated solutions.”

“There is an explosion of smartphone apps and other technologies being developed that tell you strategies on how to live a healthier lifestyle, but few health interventions truly help you learn how to create behavior change solutions for yourself,” Hekler said. “This grant will help us explore ways of simplifying the process by creating an overarching system designed to help people lead healthier lives.”

Burleson says the toolkit will empower people to be active participants in their health and well-being choices.

“When they have access to the technologies and resources that provide actionable, real-time information about critical events in their daily lives, they have greater potential to develop personal strategies to help them flourish,” he says.

Hekler and Burleson will be assisted on the project by Google researcher Bob Evans and Jisoo Lee, a doctoral student pursuing a degree in a program combining studies in the Fulton engineering schools and the School of Arts, Media and Engineering in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

The team is seeking undergraduate and graduate students to work in Hekler’s Designing Health Lab to help test prototypes of the toolkit and explore ways to evaluate the system’s performance.

Read more about the project and about applying for work in the lab.

Media Contact:
Joe Kullman, joe.kullman@asu.edu
(480) 965-8122
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

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