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Preventing disease through AI

Preventing disease through AI

Researchers from the University of South Australia are studying how digital technology can help ward off chronic disease.

Preventing disease through AI

In a new University of South Australia research project announced this week, researchers will help people tackle chronic disease through a range of digital technologies.

Using apps, wearables, social media and artificial intelligence, the research will show whether technology can modify and improve people’s behaviours to create meaningful and lasting lifestyle changes that can ward off chronic disease.

Chronic disease is the leading cause of illness, disability and death in the country with about half of Australians having a least one of eight major conditions including CVD, cancer, arthritis, asthma, back pain, diabetes, pulmonary disease and mental health conditions.

Nearly 40 per cent of chronic disease is preventable through modifiable lifestyle and diet factors.

Tracking progress with tech

The research will assess the ability of digital technologies to improve the health and wellbeing across a range of populations, health behaviours and outcomes, with a specific focus on how they can negate poor health outcomes associated high-risk events such as school holidays or Christmas (when people are more likely to indulge and less likely to exercise); where technology could better track the activity among hospital inpatients, outpatients and home-patients (to help recovery from illness and surgery, leading to improved patient outcomes); and how new artificial intelligence-driven virtual health assistants can boost health among high-risk groups, such as older adults.

Accessible and affordable solutions

Lead researcher, UniSA’s Associate Professor Carol Maher says the research aims to deliver accessible and affordable health solutions.

“Poor lifestyle patterns – a lack of exercise, excess sedentary behaviour, a lack of sleep and poor diets – are leading modifiable causes of death and disease in Australia,” Assoc Prof Maher says.

“Technology has a huge amount to offer in terms of improving lifestyle and health, especially in terms of personalisation and accessibility, but it has to be done thoroughly and it has to be done well.

“Research plays an important role in helping understand the products that are most effective, which will see us working with existing commercial technologies and applying and testing them in a new way, as well as developing bespoke software for specific, unmet needs.”

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