This past July, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, Chaitra Gopalappa, and her team were awarded a $1.2-million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to assess the effectiveness of public health initiatives and investments in targeting a variety of chronic diseases. This project has been given funding through the “Smart and Connected Health (SCH)” award, a program within the NSF’s Division of Information and Intelligent Systems.
Professor Gopalappa, the principal investigator of the team, has been working alongside co-principal investigators and UMass Amherst professors Dean Robinson (Department of Political Science), Hari Jagannatha Balasubramanian (Mechanical and Industrial Engineering), and Peter Haas (Computer Science), as well as Jagpreet Chhatwal, a professor of radiology and decision sciences of Harvard Medical School. The team also comprises several graduate students and fellows whose work aligns with the focus of the SCH program.
Professors Gopalappa and Robinson are faculty members of the Commonwealth Honors College and have been integral in creating opportunities for interdisciplinary research collaborations that aim to address socioeconomic challenges and inequities pertaining to public health and policy.
In February of 2018, Gopalappa was awarded a five-year, $1.5-million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to improve the national approach to reducing HIV infection and to work on developing new models and methods for evaluating the plan’s effectiveness. The recent NSF award will fund similar work that investigates the ability to track risk factors and consequently implement structural interventions, aiming to improve the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) within a population.
This approach aims to improve our current ability to address chronic disease using preventative monitoring and modeling, encompassing a range of fields from public policy to mechanical engineering to computer science. The team’s highly multi-disciplinary work will involve ongoing collaborations with researchers and staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the World Health Organization—two entities that serve as critical stakeholders in this area of research.