Health Equity Data Lab awards launch data science innovations at Notre Dame in addressing healthcare disparities

HEDL stock photo

The Lucy Family Institute for Data & Society (LFIDS) has announced the first round of Health Equity Data Lab (HEDL) awards to four new research projects led by multidisciplinary teams of researchers and community stakeholders.

The Health Equity Data Lab was launched in late 2022 to identify and address healthcare disparities, and to enable equitable community health and well-being. With support from Accenture, a request for proposals from LFIDS faculty affiliates was announced to advance interdisciplinary research with the goal of addressing projects in health literacy, health access, precision social determinants of health, and health equity indicators.

The four projects that were selected for the first Health Equity Data Lab grants are:

1. Indigenous Cancer Disparities: Multi-Modal Data Integration of Social and Biological Determinants of Health led by Meenal Datta, Assistant Professor in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering and Margaret Traeger, Assistant Professor in the Department of IT, Analytics, and Operations.

Dr. Datta and Dr. Traeger are actively recruiting and will co-mentor an Institute postdoctoral fellow to study the role of racial disparities and social determinants of health in cancer incidence and outcomes using a variety of data science techniques including social network analysis, bioinformatics, and machine learning.

2. Emergency Room Usage and Hospitalization Study of Motels4Now Low-barrier Shelter Program Participants led by Margaret Pfeil, Teaching Professor in the Department of Theology and the Center for Social Concerns, with community partners Donald Zimmer, MD, Memorial Hospital Emergency Department, Katharine Callaghan, MD, Associate Director of Family Medicine Residency Program at Memorial Hospital, and Sheila McCarthy, Director of Motels4Now at Our Lady of the Road.

The team will partner with the Institute’s Center for Social Science Research to measure the impact of the emergency low-barrier housing program Motels4Now on participant Emergency Room usage and hospitalization rates at Memorial Hospital.

3. Bridging the Data Gap Between Parental Adversity and Infant Health Outcomes led by Theodore Beauchaine, William K. Warren Foundation Professor in the Department of Psychology, with community partners Mark Fox, MD, Associate Dean of the Indiana School of Medicine South Bend and Deputy Health Officer at the St. Joseph County Department of Health, Kimberly Green Reeves, Executive Director of Community Impact at Beacon Health System, and Cassy White, Lead Project Specialist at Beacon Community Impact.

The team will work to more efficiently address health-related social needs and risks for pregnant individuals, infants, and families in St. Joseph County by integrating new and existing data between various local healthcare providers and building predictive models for identifying parental social determinants of health.

4. Housing – Health Equity Nexus: Better Housing as Health Risk Mediator (HOUSE4HEALTH) led by Ming Hu, Associate Professor in the School of Architecture and Chaoli Wang, Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

Dr. Hu and Dr. Wang will partner with South Bend community organizations to develop a machine learning-aided model to evaluate built environment indicators concerning climate change-accelerated health risks, specifically focusing on housing conditions.

“We are excited that these projects have the potential to be truly transformative for community health and well-being in the South Bend/Elkhart region and beyond,” said Nitesh Chawla, the Institute’s founding director and the Frank M. Freimann Professor of Computer Science and Engineering. He added, “they also represent a wonderful opportunity for trainees to be co-mentored at interdisciplinary interfaces.”

For more information about the Health Equity Data Lab, please visit the Lucy Family Institute for Data & Society website


Christine Grashorn, Communications Specialist
Notre Dame Research / University of Notre Dame / 574.631.4856 / @UNDResearch

About the Lucy Family Institute for Data & Society

The Lucy Family Institute for Data & Society is a hub for students, faculty, postdoctoral and visiting scholars, and staff to explore how data can be harnessed for societal benefit. We act as an incubator for data research as well as a liaison to the government and business communities. Our mission is to enable a positive impact on society and individual lives through innovative domain-informed and data-driven methods and applications.