Team Develops Wearable Technologies to Help Students Monitor Their Health Behaviors

October 11, 2019

Project team members
Lauren Willis, Susanne Haga and Christine Wang handing out wearable devices during the first WearDuke pilot study.

The Bass Connections Enabling Precision Health and Medicine team is gearing up for its second year. Beginning this fall, they will work to further develop and expand the infrastructure for the WearDuke Initiative – a campus initiative to promote student health awareness and engagement. In particular, WearDuke uses digital-based wearable technologies to help Duke undergraduate students self-monitor their health-related behaviors. WearDuke is cosponsored by the Office of the Provost, School of Medicine, Duke Health and philanthropic support.

After a year-long planning phase led by the 2018-2019 Enabling Precision Health and Medicine team, the first WearDuke pilot study officially kicked off in Gilbert-Addoms dorm over the August 24-25 weekend. Participating first-year students were able to pick up their wearable devices – either Apple Watches or Fitbits – and pair them with their phones on the companion app, developed by the Office of Information Technology. Students also attended an orientation session where they learned more about what is required to participate in the pilot study, including completing weekly surveys about their health and activities and wearing their watch daily to measure and track activity and sleep patterns. Out of 175 students living in Gilbert-Addoms, 115 (66%) have opted to participate in the program. 

The WearDuke initiative will again be supported by a Bass Connections team. This year’s team consists of new and familiar faces. Christine Wang (’21) and Lauren Willis (’21) are returning for a second year. The pair moved in early to assist faculty investigators Susanne Haga and Ryan Shaw with the orientation sessions that WearDuke enrollees were required to attend over the kickoff weekend. New members include Sophie Almekinders, Lakshya Bakshi, Emma Herold, Shrey Majmudar and Jack Wang.

I believe in the importance of helping freshman build the healthy habits that will stick with them throughout the rest of their time at Duke.

“I joined the WearDuke project for a second year because I believe in the importance of helping freshman build the healthy habits that will stick with them throughout the rest of their time at Duke,” said Lauren Willis. “Watching all of the work we put into the project come to life is really rewarding.” 

During the Fall 2019 semester, the team will work on making revisions to the weekly surveys and enhancements to the companion app. In addition, they will create a WearDuke newsletter and begin to develop the framework for the second larger pilot study set to launch next fall. This larger pilot study will connect students with interventions and activities to improve their health and establish healthy routines that can be monitored on their wearable device.

“I decided to continue in this project because I believe in the goals and potential impacts of the WearDuke initiative,” said Christine Wang, “I’m excited to see what impacts the study makes on students and watch as it expands across campus over the coming years.” 

After evaluating the success of the first two pilot studies, WearDuke is set to launch to Duke’s entire freshman class in 2021. 

By Alexis Kessenich; originally posted on the Duke Center for Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine website

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