The Digital Epidemiology and Population Health Laboratory was established by Dr. Tarun Katapally in 2017.

Vision: The long-term vision of DEPtH Laboratory is to develop a sustainable program of population health intervention research by integrating citizen science, community-based participatory and patient-oriented research, and systems science utilizing ubiquitous digital epidemiological tools.

 

Research Goal: The primary goal of the lab is to establish a network of interdisciplinary researchers, community partners and multisectoral stakeholders to synthesize and translate evidence in influencing policies to improve population health and wellbeing. 

 

Approach: Citizen Science and Community Engagement utilizing the SMART Platform 

The DEPtH Laboratory continues to have a significant impact on the broader community because of the strength of our partnerships with communities and stakeholders. Utilizing the SMART Platform, the integration of citizen science and community-based participatory research has enabled these partnerships. Community-based participatory research has a strong record of application across multiple disciplines and sectors to address health inequities by building capacity and integrating knowledge translation. Citizen science can utilize the structure of community-based participatory research to take local approaches to problem solving to a global scale. In essence, all the epidemiological research our lab conducts is in some way informed by stakeholders and communities, and the evidence generated is ultimately back to them to inform policies and programs.

 

SMART Platform: As part of the SMART Platform, researchers at the DEPtH Lab are engaging with citizen scientists via their smartphones to implement multiple studies with varied study designs (e.g. cross-sectional, longitudinal, randomized trials, natural experiments, population health interventions) across different jurisdictions within and outside of Canada. The SMART Platform provides the flexibility to engage with participants (i.e., citizen scientists) in real-time to capture rich population health behavioural data. The studies utilize mixed-methods approaches to understand not just the incidence or prevalence of behaviours, but also where, when, how, and more importantly, why behaviours change. Comprehensive behavioural data collection is achieved by triangulating traditional surveys with ecological momentary assessments deployed via smartphones and mobile sensors, including global positioning systems, accelerometers, pedometers, and Wi-Fi networks. More importantly, a range of behavioural data (including physical activity, addictions and mental health) are being used to inform policy development. For example, the SMART Platform has obtained data related to marijuana consumption and perceptions before, during, and after marijuana legalization, which would help inform policies across jurisdictions in collaboration with primary stakeholders.

 

Objective:

  • Implementation of mixed-methods global surveillance programs to address critical data gaps by leveraging ubiquitous digital tools

  • Design, delivery, and evaluation of population health interventions to address health inequities among vulnerable groups, especially Indigenous populations

  • Development of groundbreaking analytical approaches to respond to existing and emerging population crises in near real-time through patient-oriented research

  • Build capacity of high quality training personnel with an emphasis on diversity, equity, and methodological rigour.

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