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Smart Health

Developers, doctors and researchers meet at the intersection of health and wearable technology.

Story by Rin-rin Yu • Image exdez/iStock

Digiceuticals—sensors and apps that do everything from monitoring sleep patterns to measuring glucose levels—are becoming a go-to source of data used by researchers in clinical trials and by doctors creating individualized treatments for patients.

Researchers, health care providers and developers will explore how emerging technologies like these can improve health among different populations at the Connected Health Conference, October 25–27 in Boston. Attendees will examine video games for rehabilitation, smartphone technology in high-, middle- and low-income countries and other tech trends in research.

“We’ve moved … from a space littered with shiny new objects supported by scant evidence to one where rigorous evaluations are being conducted to test the clinical and population-level impacts of these technologies,” says conference advisory board member Alain Labrique, PhD ’07, MHS ’99, MS, an associate professor in International Health.

Mother, child and health care worker.

HOME REMEDY: Early intervention through home visiting programs can help vulnerable families make positive changes that have lasting impacts.

Bringing it Home

Early childhood expert Anne Duggan’s research strengthens home visiting programs to help families thrive.

Story by Jackie Powder • Photo monkeybusinessimages/iStock

Home is ground zero for early childhood development. It’s where we forge critical neural and emotional connections that serve as a template for life.

Children raised in homes defined by stress, chaos or danger are more likely as teens and adults to struggle with psychological and physical problems and engage in risky behaviors like smoking, unsafe sex and drug use.

To shift those trajectories, the field of home visiting crosses the threshold into the lives of vulnerable families to help them create a healthy home environment.

“If we want to do right by families facing adversity, we need to help parents provide consistent nurturance—even in the face of stress—and help them overcome those stresses,” says Anne Duggan, ScD ’85, a professor in Population, Family and Reproductive Health.

At-risk families typically come to the attention of home visiting programs through health clinics or social services organizations. A trusting home visitor/family relationship is key to the work, increasing the likelihood that a family will take advantage of resources like behavioral health services, quality child care or job training, she says.

A national leader in home visiting research, Duggan has been a maternal and child health researcher for 30 years. She directs the federal Home Visiting Applied Research Collaborative, launched in 2012 to define and carry out a national home visiting research agenda. She is also co-principal investigator of a federal study evaluating the impact of current public policy expanding home visiting nationally.

“At the heart of it, we’re talking about changing people’s behavior,” says Duggan, who will be taking part in HARC’s third annual Collaborative Science of Home Visiting meeting on January 31, 2018, in Washington, D.C. “The home visitor’s job is to help move a family toward positive change.”

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Quadrennial Quorum

Population scientists cross borders to share findings and methods.

Story by Rin-rin Yu • Photo anilyanik/iStock

Why do women survive famines and epidemics better than men? Why do tall people tend to live longer?

Answering these questions is a focus of research in biodemography, one of 19 themes to be covered at the 2017 International Population Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, October 29 to November 4, 2017.

Stan Becker, PhD ’78, a professor in Population, Family and Reproductive Health, will chair a conference session on methods. Becker has attended the conference over the past 30 years and has noticed some trends.

In addition to biodemography, gender has become a hot topic, as has population, consumption and the environment.

Learning about methods and research results from other countries is critical, Becker says, noting that population researchers would otherwise tend to be “pretty parochial,” especially in the U.S.

More than 2,000 scientists, policymakers and government officials from around the world will gather for this year’s IPC, which meets every four years as a major activity of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population.

Our growing species

7.6 billion

Current world population

9.8 billion

Projected population in 2050

71 years

Global life expectancy at birth, 2010–2015

77 years

Projected global life expectancy, 2045–2050

Sources: esa.un.org/unpd/wpp

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