Holden, who teaches in the Department of BioHealth Informatics at the School of Informatics and Computing on the IUPUI campus, believes use of information technology can be an effective weapon in the battle against Alzheimer’s disease, depression, anxiety, and other impairments. He is coordinating ground-breaking research that involves local residents most likely to benefit from the technology.
B-PHIT Indy: A Community Partnership for Brain-Promoting Information Technology is the project that earned Holden the $25,000 Chancellor Charles R. Bantz 2016 Scholar Award. He was selected from 21 faculty representing 12 schools and 40 community partners. B-PHIT is an acronym for Brain-Protective Health Information Technology.
He said, IT is considered the most far-reaching and cost-effective tool for better health outcomes, a position supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Institute of Medicine. With the proliferation of smart devices, personal computers and internet access, IT is more accessible than ever.
Holden noted, “This technology is not just for people with mental disorders but also those who are healthy but at risk – pretty much all of us. While the primary focus will be older adults who are at higher risk of brain-related issues – middle aged and younger individuals may use IT for assessment purposes or to monitor proper diet and exercise.”
However, says Holden, the best way to create IT for either impaired or at-risk individuals is to involve them in the process as co-designers, testers, or both. “Without user involvement, IT ends up not easy to use or effective and users are less likely to accept and use it,” said Holden.
He added, “We have a number of projects planned that we know need user involvement. Thanks to B-PHIT Indy, those projects will be able to involve community members.”
Initial projects to benefit from this new community partnership include testing of a mobile phone application for caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s disease, a brain training program for cognitive fitness, and a kiosk to help make safe over-the-counter medications selections.
For these and other projects, researchers will go directly to community members by working with partnering community organizations. This will allow for community members to participate in a safe, trusted, and comfortable environment, Holden pointed out. Community research partners are Eskenazi Health; the Indianapolis Discovery Network for Dementia (IDND); Mental Health America-Indy; and Joy’s House, a community adult day center. Holden and his research team have past relationships with each partner, including ten years of prior work with IDND.
Finally, Holden said a long-range goal is to see the concept expanded. He noted, “With replicable infrastructure, our model could easily become B-PHIT Evansville or any other city where researchers and community organizations value partnering to design user-centered IT. And in addition to brain health, an initiative like ours may eventually be designed to address other needs – like heart health.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Charles R. Bantz Chancellor’s Community Fellowship embodies the spirit of engagement espoused by its namesake throughout his 12 years of IUPUI leadership. The award is designed to support community-engaged research and scholarly activities that reinforce and deepen campus community engagement and research partnerships; leverage the knowledge, skills and innovative talents of faculty, students, and community partners, and result in meaningful community impact. For more information click here.