Population Health

June 25, 2020

Initiative co-funds two Innovation Gap Fund grants with CoMotion

Image of the EMAR robotThe Population Health Initiative and CoMotion have announced Population Health Innovation Gap Fund grants of $50,000 each to teams led by Elin Björling, a senior research scientist and lecturer in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering, and Kit Galvin, a research scientist in the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences.

These joint awards are intended to fund projects that simultaneously support the University of Washington’s vision for improving population health while also fulfilling the CoMotion Innovation Gap Fund’s goal of enabling research that will achieve sustainable economic or societal impact.

Björling’s work addresses the important issue of teen mental health. As stress increases for adolescents, school resources for mental health are unable to stem the steady rise in depression that has been observed in young people. Björling and her team have spent the past four years working with teens in school to co-design EMAR, a social robot (pictured above), to address adolescent stress and provide a micro-mental health intervention. This grant will enable the team to build a robust, high-fidelity prototype of their existing robot, and deploy five EMAR robots in schools for pilot testing.

Galvin’s project is to further develop the PestiSeguro/PestiSafe app, which delivers critical pesticide safety information to farmworkers in their primary language, Spanish. Typically, pesticide safety instructions are available only in English, despite 77% of U.S. farmworkers using Spanish as their main language. The app has been successfully tested with tree fruit farmers in Washington, and this grant will expand the use of the app to most Washington crops by scaling up the database of pesticide products from 100 to 2,000.

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