Still, health equity research in digital health remains limited. To help address these issues, we announced the Fitbit Health Equity Research Initiative earlier this year to help support underrepresented researchers who are early in their careers and working to address health disparities in communities.
Over the past decade, researchers have used Fitbit devices in over 900 health studies, in areas like diabetes, heart disease, oncology, mental health, infectious disease and more. Today, we’re awarding six researchers more than a total of $300,000 in Fitbit devices and services to support their research projects. Additionally, Fitbit’s long-time partner, Fitabase, will provide all projects with access to their data management platform to help researchers maximize study participation and analysis.
Meet the award recipients and learn more about their projects:
Improving postpartum care for rural black women
Black women in the U.S. are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth when compared to their white counterparts. And in Georgia, the disparities are more pronounced among rural populations. “As Black women who reside in Georgia, we’re more likely to die simply by becoming pregnant,” shares Sherilyn Francis, a PhD student in Georgia Tech’s Human-Centered Computing program. Her research aims to improve postpartum care for rural Black mothers through a culturally informed mobile health intervention. As part of the study, participants will receive a Fitbit Sense smartwatch and Fitbit Aria Air scale. By combining insight into physical activity, heart rate, sleep, weight and nutritional data with health outcomes, Sherilyn and her colleagues hope to shed light on ways to reduce the risk of severe maternal morbidity for Black mothers.
Preventing the progression of type 2 diabetes in Latino adults
The causes and complications of type 2 diabetes (T2D) disproportionately impact Latinos. Motivated by personal experiences, Rony F. Santiago, MA, is an early-career researcher at Sansum Diabetes Research Institute and manages T2D programs that support the Santa Barbara community. Rony and his team, in collaboration with researchers at Texas A&M University, aim to recruit healthy Latino participants and those with pre-diabetes or T2D who will each receive a continuous glucose monitor and a Fitbit Sense smartwatch. They hope to analyze physical activity, nutrition tracking and sleep patterns to better understand the impact these behaviors can have on blood sugar and the potential to improve health outcomes, including the progression from pre-diabetes to T2D.
For the past 14 years at Fitbit, our mission has been to help everyone around the world live active, healthier lives, and along with Google, we’re committed to using tech to improve health equity. We hope the Fitbit Health Equity Research Initiative will continue to encourage wearable research and generate new evidence and methods for addressing health disparities.