Dr. Agarwal collaborates on $1 million NSF Big Data grant to research data science-informed solutions to health disparities in southern U.S. region

Nitin Argarwal












Dr. Nitin Agarwal is collaborating on a three-year $1 million NSF-funded project that brings together several universities to take a big data approach to address health disparities in the southern United States such as cardiovascular diseases.  Dr. Agarwal’s portion of the project totals $61,931 over three years.

The Jerry  L. Maulden-Entergy Endowed Chair Professor of Information Science joins the team that includes Emory University, Moore School of Medicine, University of Texas-Dallas, West Virginia University, Virginia University, and Georgia Tech to offer a research-based understanding of the conversations and network ties in social media among families and caregivers dealing with a health issue.The project aims to design and construct a patient-focused, personalized health system that addresses the fractured nature of healthcare information, and the lack of engagement of individuals in their own healthcare. By utilizing the enormous amount of information being created about our environment from smart devices, social media, and real-time assessments, the team will create a detailed and comprehensive picture of a patient’s health, along with a tool to help manage patients’ engagement with their health care providers.

This project will use a cloud-based computing infrastructure and the unique capacities of the South Big Data Hub to house and analyze the enormous volumes of health-related data generated every day by people and their environment. By linking electronic medical records, external databases, and data “in the wild” harvested from Internet-enabled fitness devices, the project will address several issues related to integrating high-resolution data for longitudinal tracking of patients.

By employing patient-centered software development, the team will work with communities to implement a cloud-based architecture to improve tracking of study participants, increase the ease of capturing data, improve patient engagement, and facilitate care coordination. The resulting platform will integrate big data analytics, real time scalable data collection, and social media analytics on patient behavior to analyze cardiovascular disease outcomes among disadvantaged African American and Hispanic patient populations. Additionally, the team will implement data fusion techniques to ensure the accuracy of the data collected, and develop machine learning models to identify at-risk patient populations to reduce health disparities. Finally, the team will measure patient engagement and health outcomes to assess the validity and success of the system.

The project also focuses strongly on education and community engagement. The goal is to engage the community by educating app design, which will show the connection between design and collective action.

According to a number of researchers in sociology and information science, virtual communities have improved the health and wellbeing of individuals who live in isolation. This improvement is due to social media allowing individuals to seek support, compassion, and a sense of belonging.

Dr. Agarwal will investigate the role of online social communities in health and wellness. This research will also show how a healthcare community can provide social support and reduce depression and anxiety.

Along with his position as the Jerry  L. Maulden-Entergy Endowed Chair of Information Science, Dr. Agarwal is the director of the Collaboratorium for Social Media and Online Behavioral Studies at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1636933.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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