HEDL Research Projects

The Health Equity Data Lab, generously supported by Accenture, funds innovative research projects focused on the lab’s pillars, including health literacy, health access, precision social determinants of health, and health equity indicators identified through the Forum. These projects are led by interdisciplinary teams of researchers and community partners who collaborate to transform health and well-being in the South Bend – Elkhart region and beyond.

Current projects

Indigenous Cancer Disparities: Multi-Modal Data Integration

Project Leaders: Meenal Datta and Margaret Traeger
Departments: Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering | Department of IT, Analytics, and Operations

Overview: This project focuses on understanding the role of racial disparities and social determinants of health in cancer incidence and outcomes among Indigenous populations. Dr. Datta and Dr. Traeger, along with their team, employ a variety of data science techniques including social network analysis, bioinformatics, and machine learning to investigate this critical issue.

Emergency Room Usage and Hospitalization Study

Project Leader: Margaret Pfeil
Departments: Department of Theology | Center for Social Concerns
Community Partners: Donald Zimmer, MD, Memorial Hospital Emergency Department; Katharine Callaghan, MD, Associate Director of Family Medicine Residency Program at Memorial Hospital; Sheila McCarthy, Director of Motels4Now at Our Lady of the Road.

Overview: In collaboration with community partners, this project evaluates the impact of the emergency low-barrier housing program, Motels4Now, on participant Emergency Room usage and hospitalization rates at Memorial Hospital. The research team aims to shed light on the effectiveness of this program in improving the well-being of its participants.

Bridging the Data Gap Between Parental Adversity and Infant Health Outcomes

Project Leader: Theodore Beauchaine
Department: Department of Psychology
Community Partners: Mark Fox, MD, Associate Dean of the Indiana School of Medicine South Bend and Deputy Health Officer at the St. Joseph County Department of Health; Kimberly Green Reeves, Executive Director of Community Impact at Beacon Health System; Cassy White, Lead Project Specialist at Beacon Community Impact.

Overview: Working closely with community partners, this project seeks to address health-related social needs and risks for pregnant individuals, infants, and families in St. Joseph County. The team is focused on integrating data from various local healthcare providers and building predictive models to identify parental social determinants of health.

Housing – Health Equity Nexus: Better Housing as Health Risk Mediator (HOUSE4HEALTH)

Project Leaders: Ming Hu and Chaoli Wang
Departments: School of Architecture | Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Community Partners: Collaborating with local South Bend community organizations.

Overview: This project collaborates with South Bend community organizations to develop a machine learning-aided model to assess built environment indicators related to climate change-accelerated health risks, with a specific focus on housing conditions. The research aims to contribute to a healthier living environment.

Responsible use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Empowering the Workforce of the Future I

Project Leaders: Prof. Nuno Moniz and Deng Pan
Departments: Lucy Family Institute

Overview: This project explores the relationship between forecasting and model interpretability in healthcare AI applications. Its main objective is to address the challenges of health data equity by improving the interpretability of deep learning models. This work will contribute to a better understanding of the existing issues and provide solutions to overcome them, thus promoting innovation in the field. More broadly, the project will expand the use of state-of-the-art AI tools, which often lack interpretability and are challenging to use in real-world scenarios.

Responsible use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Empowering the Workforce of the Future II

Project Leaders: Prof. Yiyu Shi, Prof. Yanfang (Fanny) Ye and Dr. Georgina Curto Rex
Departments: Computer Science and Engineering | Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center | Lucy Family Institute
Community Partners: Prof. Jing Su, School of Medicine, and Prof. Joshua Wells, Sociology and Anthropology, Indiana University South Bend

Overview: This project is a collaboration between the University of Notre Dame and the Indiana University School of Medicine teams to develop a series of AI-based applications for diagnosing skin diseases more accurately. The application’s framework will emphasize privacy and diversity in data to increase accuracy and promote inclusivity in healthcare. The goal is to create smartphone apps that can be used on different devices and evaluated using public datasets and local patient data.

From Data to Action: Reducing mortality from illicit drugs in South Bend, Indiana

Project Leaders: Prof. Marya Lieberman, Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry
Departments: Chemistry & Biochemistry
Community Partners: Joanne Kelley Cogdell and Adam Scholz, Naxos Neighbors

Overview: Led by Professor Lieberman in collaboration with Naxos Neighbors, this team aims to create a safe space for drug testing and information sharing. Dr. Lieberman’s lab has developed a novel tool that collects drug information through used test strips, enabling private drug testing and analysis of over 70 potential contaminants. The project aims to collect real-time data on street drugs and share results anonymously via an app. The ultimate goal is to reduce overdose deaths and improve community safety in South Bend and potentially in other areas.