Mobile Applications for Behavioral Research: Designs and Data Collection

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Date(s) - Apr 10, 2012
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM

UCLA School of Public Health- Room CHS 51-279 (5th Floor, 1st Corridor, Room #279)


CCH/HSRC Methods Seminar – UCLA-Semel Institute Center for Community Health – UCLA-Semel Institute Health Services Research Center

Part I: 


Part II:

Mobile Applications for Behavioral Research


 Part I: Tuesday, April 10, 2012, 3pm – 5pm:

Designs and Data Collection

Presented by

Nithya Ramanathan, Ph.D.

Assistant Research Professor, UCLA Department of Computer Science; Co-Founder, Nexleaf Analytics; CHIPTS Methods Core

Dallas Swendeman, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor-in-Residence, UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences; Core Scientist, CHIPTS Methods Core; Core Scientist, CHIPTS Development Core



UCLA School of Public Health 

650 Charles E. Young Dr. South,

Room CHS 51-279 (5th Floor, 1st Corridor, Room #279)


We will begin promptly at 3:00 p.m. 

Light refreshments will be provided.

Abstract: Self-management of risk behaviors is a cornerstone of future population health. Using mobile phones for routine self-monitoring is a cost-efficient strategy for self-management.  Despite benefits, new challenges are also introduced.  Costs, logistics, and appropriateness of mobile phones for the intended population need to be considered.  Daily reports that are common to mobile data collection versus retrospective self-reports that are common to traditional studies offer new opportunities to provide participant feedback and model behavior patterns.  At the same time, new challenges are introduced in data management, presentation, user uptake, and analysis.  In the first presentation, we will cover mobile phone-based study design scenarios and issues.  The second presentation will cover analytic strategies to examine participant preferences using conjoint analysis around this new technology and time-series analyses to model daily reports.


Dr. Nithya Ramanathan is an Assistant Research Faculty in Computer Science at UC Los Angeles, Co-Founder of Nexleaf Analytics, and a member of the CHIPTS Methods Core. Developing innovations in wireless sensor networks for the study of water, her doctoral work led to key advances in the understanding of arsenic contamination of groundwater wells in Bangladesh. Nithya’s current research focuses on transforming everyday objects like mobile phones into scientific data collection instruments that can be used to engage citizens in monitoring and improving personal and public health, climate, and the environment. With funding from a highly competitive NIH Challenge Grant, Nithya began development of a smartphone application to improve the cardiovascular health of women. Her work is funded by Google, the National Institute of Health, the National Science Foundation, USAID, and the Switzer Foundation.

Dr. Dallas Swendeman, PhD, MPH, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA DGSOM, a research scientist at the Global Center for Children and Families (GCCF) and the Center for HIV Identification, Prevention & Treatment Services (CHIPTS), and a member of the UC Global Health Institute’s Center of Expertise in Women’s Health and Empowerment. His multidisciplinary training spanned anthropology, psychology, sociology, organizational studies, community health sciences, and applied experience in evidence-based intervention design, randomized trials, and dissemination and scale-up.  Over the past four years his work has focused on innovative methods for research and intervention using mobile phones  (i.e., “mHealth”) in collaboration with computer scientists and co-investigators at UCLA, mHealth software development companies, and collaborators and communities in Los Angeles, India, and South Africa. This work focuses on development of open-source and modular mHealth platforms for patients/clients and providers that are tailorable to wide range of contexts and health challenges, specifically, for child and family well-being and for HIV/AIDS. Dr. Swendeman is currently directing development and testing of mHealth platforms for people living with HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles and India focusing on medication adherence, sexual risks, substance use, and mental health (mood, stress). He is also key collaborator on mHealth projects addressing diet, stress, and physical activity for young mothers in Los Angeles, and for pre- and post-natal support through home visiting by community health workers on projects in South Africa and Los Angeles. Dr. Swendeman also directs the scientific development of family coaching and child/youth development programs at the UCLA Family Commons in Santa Monica and at the RFK/Ambassabor School complex in Koreatown.

For further information or to view slides of past seminars, please visit contact Kate Desmond at

This seminar series is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (P 30 MH-58107).