Khoury College of Computer Sciences and Bouvé College of Health Sciences
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Human Computer-Interaction (HCI)
Personal Health Informatics
Andrea Grimes Parker is an Assistant Professor at Northeastern University, with joint appointments in the College of Computer & Information Science and the Bouvé College of Health Sciences. She holds a Ph.D. in Human-Centered Computing from Georgia Tech and a B.S. in Computer Science from Northeastern University. Dr. Parker is the founder and director of the Wellness Technology Lab at Northeastern. Her interdisciplinary research in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Personal Health Informatics examines how social and ubiquitous computing systems can help reduce racial and socio-economic health disparities.
Dr. Parker’s research has been funded through grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Aetna Foundation. Dr. Parker’s research has yielded best paper nominations at the premiere HCI conferences and she has served on technical program committees for the Association for Computing Machinery’s (ACM) top HCI conferences, including CHI, CSCW and Ubicomp. From 2014-2016, she served as the National Evaluator for the Aetna Foundation’s portfolio of projects on mobile health interventions in community settings.
A key goal for achieving public health is helping people cope with stressful life situations that act as barriers to wellness. While all populations experience stress, low-socioeconomic status (low-SES) populations are more exposed to stressors such as housing instability, employment challenges, inadequate neighborhood services, and discrimination. Stress has a direct effect on wellbeing; for example, individuals under stress are more likely to engage in unhealthy eating and other health-related behaviors that in turn predict poor health outcomes. The ability to positively handle stress is influenced by one’s coping resources, that is, assets that people draw on to overcome adversity.
Reminiscence—reflecting on the past—is one way of developing coping resources and resilience. For example, during instrumental reminiscence, people recall occasions when they were able to positively cope with stressful circumstances, identifying the strategies used to adapt to challenges and how these strategies can be applied in the future. However, reminiscence interventions are typically delivered via repeated in-person sessions or in lab studies, reducing their accessibility (especially amongst low-resource populations) and necessitating tools that can be used in the context of people’s daily lives.
The proposed project will examine how more easily-accessible mobile technology can enable coping and resilience through reminiscence on positive moments from one’s past. The Broaden and Build Theory of Emotion, which characterizes how reflection on the past can support coping and resilience, will be used to examine how technology-enabled reminiscence can help low-SES adults to build cognitive and social coping resources, and over time, resilience to adversity.
Specifically, this project will investigate opportunities for Expressive Design: the creation and study of technologies that help people evocatively and creatively capture, reflect upon, and learn from their experiences. To explore this idea, participatory design methods will be used to design a smartphone application—PonderMeals—that supports vivid documentation and reflection on healthy eating, a domain critical to wellbeing and impacted by chronic stress.
This proposal brings together theory from human-computer interaction and positive psychology to introduce and evaluate new opportunities for design. While much prior work has examined how Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can impact health behaviors directly, less work has studied how ICTs can address overarching social determinants of health such as the stressful conditions that low-SES populations face. This project will contribute new knowledge characterizing how digital interactions with expressive experience data can help people cope with and increase resilience to stress.
Parker, A.G. (2014). Reflection-through-performance: Personal implications of documenting health behaviors for the collective. Journal of Personal & Ubiquitous Computing, 18(7), 1737-1752. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00779-014-0780-5
Parker, A. G. (2019). Technological approaches to food-related health equity. In Page-Reeves, J. M. (Eds.). Well-Being as a Multidimensional Concept: Understanding Connections Between Culture, Community, and Health. Lexington Books of Rowman & Littlefield. Lanham, Maryland.
Parker, A.G. & Grinter, R.E. (2014). Collectivistic health promotion tools: Accounting for the relationship between culture, food and nutrition. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 72(2), 185-206. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhcs.2013.08.008
Parker, A. G., Saksono, H., Hoffman, J. A., & Castaneda-Sceppa, C. (2018). A community health orientation for wellness technology design & delivery. In Ackerman, M. S., Goggins, S. P.,… Stary, C. Designing Healthcare That Works (pp. 59-76). Academic Press.