Meet the Semi-Finalists: Q&A with Aware Study

This post is part of a special “Meet the Semi-Finalists” series, featuring Q&As with the five semi-finalists of the Mood Challenge for ResearchKit.

Today’s “Meet the Semi-Finalists” post features Aware Study, a ResearchKit study that aims to be the largest applied research study to assess mood and its relationship to PTSD and will seek to tailor insights to an individual’s context. The study lasts 28 days and asks participants to respond to surveys every week and perform two daily tasks, all while collecting data passively.

Aware Study is one of five semi-finalists competing to become a finalist and receive $100,000 to develop their designs into prototypes to be piloted with iPhone users. Stay tuned for the finalist announcement in October!

Tell us about your team’s background.
The Aware Study is led by co-primary investigators, David Haddad and Beth Jaworski. David has been a health economist, food entrepreneur, and chemist. Now he’s CEO of Overlap Health, a startup that provides tools to hospitals, clinics and researchers to deliver better care and research. He’s a board member of Open mHealth, he writes and makes bike baskets. A Bay Area native, David lives in Brooklyn, NYC and various airports. Beth received her doctorate in social psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is a mobile apps specialist at the National Center for PTSD, Dissemination & Training Division, located in Menlo Park, California. Additional team members include: Jason Owen, MPH, PhD, Kelly M. Ramsey, Margaret Mackintosh, PhD, Julia Hoffman, PsyD, and Steven Woodward, PhD.

Why is this Challenge important to you? What inspired your proposal for a ResearchKit study?
We know many people face mental health challenges, especially those who have experienced a trauma, but not everyone has access to mental health care, or feels comfortable seeking care. Data from a study like Aware would have a tremendous impact on the types of interventions we develop and how well the interventions could be matched to the needs of the individual. We are also deeply committed to making research more accessible and engaging, so that everyone feels like they can and want to contribute to science.

What have been the biggest challenges and successes in developing your study thus far?
Focus. Focus. Focus. We’ve talked to so many smart and inspiring people, but each conversation spurs a new idea. A new direction. We wish we could do everything in such a short amount of time, but ultimately have had to make some tough decisions on what to deliver today and what to deliver for the future. Our success is the flip side of our challenge. By being able to work with so many talented individuals from different disciplines, we’ve been able to approach this study from a unique perspective informed by experts in user experience design, psychology, statistics, machine learning, and app development. Without the Boot Camp we wouldn’t be as far as we are today.

You’ve entered the Virtual Accelerator phase, which includes expert mentorship and participation in a live Boot Camp. What’s the biggest insight you’ve uncovered through this process so far?
There are so many ways to approach the study of mood, but it’s important to keep user engagement and experience at the forefront of mobile mental health research.