I am interested in exploring how technology can be designed for low literacy and chronically ill populations to help them self-manage their health. I use iterative user-centered design technique to design and develop mobile health applications. My continued aim is to investigate the effectiveness of these applications in improving the lives of the patients, and to explore different ways to improve these applications.

Research Projects

Dietary Intake Monitoring

For my dissertation, I worked with people from low socioeconomic status who show higher risk behaviors for chronic diseases due to their inadequate resource conditions and poor living choices. Since preliminary research has shown that mobile health applications hold the potential to prevent, treat and manage chronic conditions at lower costs, it is very important to formulate mobile application user interface design guidelines for my target population. For my user studies, I recruited chronic kidney disease stage V patients from a semi-urban dialysis facility. These patients have to follow a strict dietary regimen to manage their chronic condition but they are often unsuccessful in doing so because they do not have enough literacy skills or tools to help them. Due to noncompliance, their blood fluid and electrolyte levels reach dangerous limits, and they have to be hospitalized for extra treatment. Based on the results of these user studies, I designed and developed a mobile application called Dietary Intake Monitoring Application (DIMA) that enabled my target users to track their fluid and dietary intake with reasonable accuracy. The feedback from the application helped patients self-monitor their diet and fluid intake and allowed them to make necessary adjustments. The application was pilot tested two times for at least 6 weeks. The patients found it easy to use, useful. It also helped them become more aware of what they were eating and how they were eating during the study, and helped start the process of behavior change in eating.


Ecological momentary assessment methodology (EMA) using cell phone technology is a valid and reliable approach to measuring health risk behaviors including disordered eating and weight control behaviors (DEWCB).  Advantages of EMA include ability to capture behaviors in context and eliminate recall biases.  Although EMA technology has been used with diverse populations, most programs are word-based, and therefore, unsuitable for persons with low literacy.  The purpose of this project is to develop and test a mobile application to measure DEWCB in young adult Mexican American women with low literacy. A user-centered, iterative design process was used to develop the application interface for Android-based smartphones (version 4.0 and above). The application has finished first two rounds of beta testing. It will be undergoing another round of beta test before finally being deployed in a large scale feasibility study.


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