ResearchKit becomes a population health tool

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund

Apple's ResearchKit app will be put to the test in a landmark population health study aimed at identifying and treating health issues facing the LGBT community.

Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco recently announced that they would use the clinical research platform to collect data on health issues faced by gays, lesbians and transgenders, including HIV/AIDS, cancer, obesity, substance abuse and behavioral health problems like depression.

The Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality (PRIDE) Study is the latest in a series of clinical studies launched in the wake of ResearchKit's rollout earlier this year. Others focus on breast cancer, asthma, Parkinson's disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Officials say this is the first ResearchKit study to focus on a population, rather than a specific health issue.

“The LGBTQ community has been understudied and underserved in healthcare settings,” Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, MAS, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the UCSF School of Medicine and director of the UCSF Center for Vulnerable Populations, said in a press release. “This timely study helps fill the gap in our understanding of health and disease risk in this population, and importantly involves and engages members of these communities in this health-related research in important and novel ways.”

The study follows up on a 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine that concluded LGBT health issues are largely under-reported because of a lack of population-based health data.

Some 600 people have registered to take part in the study, say Mitchell Lunn, MD, and Juno Obedin-Maliver, MD, research fellows in the UCSF School of Medicine who are spearheading the study. The two said they will spend the next 6-9 months gathering basic demographic and census data, then create a survey for the participants.

Obedin-Maliver and Lunn said previous, smaller studied have noted that LGBT members are more susceptible to conditions such as depression and anxiety and are at a higher risk of suicide. The ResearchKit platform will enable them to collect real-time information discreetly from participants while they're going about their lives, rather than in a controlled environment or a doctor's office.

“We are excited to use this technology and share the study’s outcomes,” Obedin-Maliver said in the press release. “There’s a real lack of evidence-based information on community health. The current landscape for LGBTQ health is less of a map and more of a signpost in the desert. We aim to create that map.”

See also: 

Next up for ResearchKit: DNA data?

Apple makes ResearchKit open source

Apple ResearchKit: Can patient-generated data be trusted?