Now Viewing: Networks

The Case for Journeying to the Center of Our Social Networks

May 5, 2014, 11:07 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

James Fowler James Fowler, Professor of Medical Genetics and Political Science at UCSD

James Fowler is Professor of Medical Genetics and Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. His work lies at the intersection of the natural and social sciences, with a focus on social networks, behavior, evolution, politics, genetics, and big data. Together with RWJF grantee Nicholas Christakis, Fowler wrote a book on social networks for a general audience called Connected.

By James Fowler

In recent weeks, much has been made of David Lazer’s finding that Google’s Flu Trends tracker seriously missed the mark in its measurement of flu activity for 2012-2013—and in previous years, too. For those who don’t know, Flu Trends monitors Google search behaviors to identify regions where searches related to flu-like symptoms are spiking.

In spite of Flu Trend’s notable misstep, Lazer still believes in the power of marrying health and social data. In discussing the results of his study, he has maintained Google Flu is “a terrific” idea—one that just needs some refining. I agree.

And, earlier this month, Nicholas Christakis, several other colleagues, and I—with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—published a new method offering one such refinement. Our paper shows that, in a given social network (in this study’s case, Twitter), a sample of its most connected, central individuals can hold significant predictive power. We call this potentially powerful group of individuals a “sensor group.”

View Full Post

Utility Data May Create Innovative Safety Net for Seniors

Jan 30, 2014, 4:30 PM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

L9991811

In the wake of Google’s acquisition of Nest, the much buzzed about maker of sensor driven thermostats, we’ve made our own investment in a Silicon Valley organization that seeks to make smart use of household utility data. The Palo Alto Medical Foundation Innovation Center is developing a home-based solution for proactively detecting changes in a senior’s social and physical health status. LinkAges Connect will use in-home data signals, such as utility use patterns, to monitor older adults’ health and support independent living at home.  Significant changes in use patterns will automatically trigger an alert to caregivers, thus providing a community safety net for seniors and peace of mind for their loved ones. As we look for sustainable solutions in elderly care, this nonintrusive home-based system could improve health outcomes for seniors by reducing accidents and hospitalizations.

View Full Post

Faces of Public Health: Daniel Zoughbie

Jan 27, 2014, 12:00 PM, Posted by Deborah Bae

070726.tt.RWJF.Kenyon.00427

We have evidence from the work of Nicholas Christakis and others that our health is influenced by our social network—our friends, family, co-workers and neighbors. With Microclinic International, we’re learning how and why health behaviors are spread socially and how to best harness social networks to manage chronic disease and improve health. Learn more in this NewPublicHealth interview with Daniel Zoughbie, PhD, MSc, of Microclinic International.

Could Good Health Be Contagious?

Nov 18, 2013, 6:00 PM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

teamup4health group exercise

A study released this week at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions provides early evidence indicating that social networks can be leveraged to spread good health. The study, which is the first long-term randomized trial of its kind in the U.S., recruited friends and families in rural Kentucky into "microclinic" social network clusters. Together, the microclinic groups attended weekly social events, such as physical activity sessions and nutrition classes.  Collectively called Team Up 4 Health, these activities were supported with gifts from Humana, a health care company focused on wellness, as well as funding from the Mulago Foundation and the Goldsmith Foundation. Microclinic members lost more weight and more inches from their waistlines than those who received standard individual care. Microclinic participants sustained these results over time, lasting beyond the 10-month program period to even six months later.

View Full Post

Introducing the Pitch Day Finalists: Crowdsourcing Lifestyle Health Experiments

Oct 11, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

Christopher Robertson, visiting professor at Harvard Law’s Petrie-Flom Center Christopher Robertson, visiting professor at Harvard Law’s Petrie-Flom Center

Christopher Robertson, a visiting professor at Harvard Law's Petrie-Flom Center (@PetrieFlom), wants to create a platform that engages social networks to enroll millions of people in large-scale randomized experiments. Robertson was one of eight finalists we invited to pitch us their ideas live and in person at the first-ever Pioneer Pitch Day. Read Robertson's 1,000-character proposal below, and join the discussion on Twitter at #pioneerpitch.

View Full Post