Research Agenda

Research Vision: Advancing health equitably one data point at a time

Dr. Lee and his lab members focus on three priority research areas: (a) Addressing the problem of data absenteeism and chauvinism in use of communication technologies in health disparities context; (b) Utilizing “big data” to improve population health outcomes, and (c) Examining impact of communication technologies and messages on public health.

Research Agenda 1: Data absenteeism and chauvinism

The main research agenda in Dr. Lee’s lab is to push back against the narrative of health technology or big data determinism—the notion that new tech or big data would be solutions to address problems in health disparities—and advocate the need to thoroughly understand issues surrounding data absenteeism (the ironic phenomenon that data from underserved populations are missing) and data chauvinism (the idea that more or big data or technology would be the messiah in addressing health disparities). Dr. Lee and his lab members also champion the need to intentionally co-create equitable tech and data solutions with underserved populations, nonprofit and government organizations, as well as for-profit organizations (e.g., tech companies) to address modifiable factors contributing to health disparities. This would involve getting everyone from the get-go to develop inclusive health tech. Currently Dr. Lee is developing health tech prototypes with industry and academic partners such as wearable gloves/sensors and health apps to be used in low-resourced settings.

Works in this area include: (a) understanding motivations and barriers why people use (or don’t use) health technologies from the lens of inequality, (b) examining how health technologies amplify/close gaps in health disparities, (c) documenting how inequalities are perpetuated through use of health technologies, and (d) understanding the dark side of health and communication technologies (e.g., problematic tech use).

Research Agenda 2: Using “big data” for population health

The second research agenda at the lab is utilizing “big data” captured from communication technologies (e.g., wearables, apps, social media, electronic health records) in an intelligent and ethical manner to improve population health. This means understanding the contexts (social determinants, information environment, socio-cultural) of why and how data were generated, and applying theory-led machine learning models to understand and improve health outcomes. Some of the research done in the lab include examining public sentiments and attitude toward communicable and noncommunicable diseases on social media, geospatial modelling of mobility patterns for tobacco control, and infectious disease surveillance using electronic health records.

Research Agenda 3: Examining impact of communication/media technologies on public health

The third research agenda is understanding the impact of communication technologies such as the different media platforms (e.g., social media, internet, television, newspaper) and how health messages relate to uptake of health knowledge and behaviors. Some of Dr Lee’s previous works include understanding how media and interpersonal communication relate to cancer knowledge and preventive behaviors as well as healthy lifestyle habits.