September 22, 2016

Wayne State professor receives $200,000 grant to develop data-driven health informatics system to address urban health challenges

Fuel innovation

DETROIT –  Wayne State University recently received notice of a nearly $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation that aims to address the many health challenges faced in urban communities due to the increasing complexity of urban life, declining urban services, and growing health and economic disparities. The team science project will focus on childhood obesity disparities, one example of the negative consequences of such challenges.

The grant, “Promoting a Healthier Urban Community: Prioritization of Risk Factors for the Prevention and Treatment of Pediatric Obesity,” aims to develop an innovative, data-driven health informatics system to promote comprehensive, efficient and personalized obesity-related care for preschoolers living in urban communities.

Ming Dong, Ph.D., associate professor of computer science in Wayne State’s College of Engineering and principal investigator of the study, said the project has potential to promote a healthier urban community.

“The Preschool Risk for Obesity Portal, or PROP, that we are developing will offer an innovative, multi-level, mixed-effects machine-learning method and scalable algorithms that can precisely identify and prioritize a preschooler’s personalized risk factors for obesity,” said Dong. “The data and tool-rich online system that we are designing offers novel algorithms for information extraction and understanding from multi-scale, correlated and heterogeneous datasets.”

The system will offer an improved method to prevent and treat pediatric obesity through better data integration from multiple community sources and systems. Dong is collaborating with Dongxiao Zhu, Ph.D., associate professor of computer science at Wayne State, and Elizabeth Towner, Ph.D., assistant professor of family medicine and public health sciences at Wayne State.

The grant number for this project is #1637312.

About Wayne State University

Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit


Julie O'Connor
Phone: 313-577-8845

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