Vision

The vision of the Digital Epidemiology and Population Health Laboratory (DEPtH Lab) is to develop a sustainable program of digital health research by scaling up the Smart Platform.

Research Goal

The primary goal of our lab is to establish a network of interdisciplinary researchers, community partners and multisectoral stakeholders to develop digital solutions for existing and emerging population health crises.

SMART Platform

The purpose of the Smart Platform is to enable digital solutions for social innovation and precision medicine by harnessing the power of big data, with an emphasis on ethical engagement, data sovereignty, and Internet equity. Researchers affiliated with the DEPtH Lab engage with citizen scientists and patients via their own digital devices (e.g. smartphones) to implement multiple studies with varied study designs (e.g. cross-sectional, longitudinal, randomized trials, natural experiments, population health interventions) across different jurisdictions within and outside Canada. The ability of Smart Platform projects to implement community-engaged initiatives enables participation of citizens across the life course and as well as data linkages of behavioural, administrative, and healthcare data. Smart Platform also enables the conceptualization of virtual care applications and digital decision-making dashboards that can be co-commercialized with communities. Operationalization and governance of all Smart Platform studies is informed by Citizen Scientist Advisory Councils, which are represented by citizen scientists across the sex, gender, and sociodemographic spectrum.

Approach: Utilizing SMART Framework

Citizen science is emerging as a reliable approach in population health research. Given that citizen science has intrinsic links with community-based research, where participatory action drives the research agenda, these two approaches could be integrated to address complex population health issues. This synergy has significant implications for population health research if combined with systems science, which can offer theoretical and methodological strength to citizen science and community-based participatory research. To truly integrate citizen science, community-based participatory research, and systems science, it is time to realize the power of ubiquitous digital tools, such as smartphones, for connecting us all and providing big data. Smartphones have the potential to not only create equity by providing a voice to disenfranchised citizens but smartphone-based apps also have the reach and power to source big data to inform policies. Smart Framework is an evidence-based approach that integrates citizen science, community-based participatory research, and systems science through ubiquitous tools by addressing core challenges such as citizen engagement, data management, and internet inequity to legitimize this integration. 

Objectives

  • Development of digital health observatory for big data-driven solutions.
  • Design, delivery, and evaluation of virtual care services to minimize health inequities.
  • Development of digital dashboards for decision-making by utilizing advanced data analytics.
  • Build capacity of high-quality training personnel with an emphasis on justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Areas of Focus

The DEPtH Lab develops, implements, and evaluates citizen science-based digital health initiatives and rapid response systems to address existing and emerging health crises, with a particular focus in the follow areas:

  • Active living
  • Child and youth health
  • Climate change
  • Food security and sovereignty
  • Global health
  • Indigenous health
  • Infectious diseases
  • Mental health
  • Substance misuse