Behavior Change By Us

Behavior Change by Us:  A Participatory Behavior Change Initiative Designed by and for the University of Michigan Community

Rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease have escalated worldwide, in part due to low levels of physical activity and unhealthy eating, with consequences for work productivity, health care costs, and future disability. We at the University of Michigan face similar health challenges as the larger global community. Given these challenges, how might we achieve improvements health for our community at a broader scale? A one-size fits all solution for improving our collective health will not likely be effective, given that we are a diverse community of students, staff, and faculty, with different lifestyles, preferences, and social networks. How might we utilize human centered design and new technologies to respond to and address this challenge? Could we leverage our ideas, talent, and knowledge to create a campus wide initiative to enhance connectedness within our community, improve health and well-being, and to advance our scientific understanding of behavior change? Can we use design thinking to create a human centered solution that integrates technologies to serve the needs of the community?

Imagine a participatory pipeline that allowed any member of the community (technical/non-technical) to ideate, plan, and conduct a behavioral change intervention and learn and share the results in a relatively seamless and frictionless manner? Individuals would: 1) generate an idea for a behavior change intervention to be conducted among a subset of members of the community; 2) design the behavioral intervention with the help of a team of U-M community members, using both out of the box commercial and locally created technologies (social media, mobiles, SMS, email, sensors/activity monitors, data visualization tools, mobile platforms), and using both locally created technologies as well as out of the box commercial technologies; 3) recruit participants and conduct a behavioral intervention lasting days, weeks, or months; and 4) share the results of the intervention with the community (through a website and social media) to disseminate insights about intervention successes and failures, and to create an open source repository of code that can be used by other members of the community to iterate and improve the effectiveness of behavioral interventions over time.

Then imagine this process multiplied by 5, by 10, or by 100; leading to a critical mass of behavioral experiments that could be improved upon in an iterative fashion and built quickly using open source code. This initiative would create a living laboratory for human behavioral change, allowing an interdisciplinary team of students, staff, and faculty, to interact, collaborate, and advance the knowledge and health of the community. This model, if successful, could be translated to other challenges both within health to other diseases/domains and could be applied to problems beyond health, including other global issues such as sustainability.  This project will undertake a 12 month planning process in preparation for a Phase 1 award to carry out this larger vision.

We Make Health Fest
Michigan’s World Class

Project Team:

Joyce Lee, Medical School
Inbal Nahum-Shani, Institute for Social Research
Natalie Colabianchi, Institute for Social Research
Pedrag Klasnja, School of Information and School of Public Health
Paul Resnick, School of Information
Matthew Kenyon, Stamps School of Art and Design
Patricia Anderson, University Library