Dr. Garrett I. Ash

Yale University, United States

Featured Speech: New Directions in Promoting Health and Wellbeing

Biography:

Associate Research Scientist, Yale University, United States

Pain, Research, Informatics, Medical Comorbidities and Education Center, Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System, West Haven, CT, United States
Center for Medical Informatics, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, United States

My career focuses on using continuous glucose monitors (CGM) and other wearable sensors to develop personally tailored physical activity interventions for people with diabetes, including digital coaching, gamification, and peer support. I work with the US Veterans Health Administration Innovations Ecosystem as the national Clinical Champion and a Quality Improvement Evaluator for a Digital Health Platform to integrate data from CGMs and fitness smartwatches into the VHA medical record while furthermore generating data-driven diabetes-specific lifestyle coaching. I am a member of the Sports Tech Research Network’s Special Interest Group on Quality Assessment of Sports Technologies.

Abstract:

The impact of social isolation on human health and wellbeing merits attention in the COVID era, especially for people already socially isolated due to having an uncommon chronic disease. A leading example is type 1 diabetes (T1D). It is diagnosed during childhood for 1 in approximately 400 individuals, meaning its patients have limited opportunity to connect to peers who share or understand their condition. An especially salient yet unexplored way that such social isolation impacts health and wellbeing is through physical activity (PA). Many critical PA opportunities for youth are group-based, but these activities are challenging for those with T1D due to stigma issues ranging from exposure of diabetes devices to the burden of explaining T1D management to uninformed teammates and coaches, parental hesitancy about participation, and the games’ often-sporadic timing that prevents T1D-specific preparation (an inherently complex and unpredictable challenge). My team has sought to address this gap by leveraging virtual tools to facilitate a group PA intervention for T1D, including PA self-management guidance from young adult role models living with T1D, individual and group PA goals, role-playing scenarios involving PA and T1D, and group PA activities. Thus, the program builds upon existing peer support discussion models by incorporating peer support into all activities ranging from discussion to practice to action. Adults with T1D have also benefitted from our on-demand virtual PA instructional tools, crediting the skills and confidence conferred by the tools. They have also asked for tools to support more consistent motivation, which we are beginning to develop through machine learning for just-in-time adaptive interventions. Together, these studies speak to the promise of virtual technology to address longstanding barriers to PA, health, and wellbeing resulting from the social isolation of living with uncommon chronic diseases.

Abstract

Dr. Garrett I. Ash

The impact of social isolation on human health and wellbeing merits attention in the COVID era, especially for people already socially isolated due to having an uncommon chronic disease. A leading example is type 1 diabetes (T1D). It is diagnosed during childhood for 1 in approximately 400 individuals, meaning its patients have limited opportunity to connect to peers who share or understand their condition. An especially salient yet unexplored way that such social isolation impacts health and wellbeing is through physical activity (PA). Many critical PA opportunities for youth are group-based, but these activities are challenging for those with T1D due to stigma issues ranging from exposure of diabetes devices to the burden of explaining T1D management to uninformed teammates and coaches, parental hesitancy about participation, and the games’ often-sporadic timing that prevents T1D-specific preparation (an inherently complex and unpredictable challenge). My team has sought to address this gap by leveraging virtual tools to facilitate a group PA intervention for T1D, including PA self-management guidance from young adult role models living with T1D, individual and group PA goals, role-playing scenarios involving PA and T1D, and group PA activities. Thus, the program builds upon existing peer support discussion models by incorporating peer support into all activities ranging from discussion to practice to action. Adults with T1D have also benefitted from our on-demand virtual PA instructional tools, crediting the skills and confidence conferred by the tools. They have also asked for tools to support more consistent motivation, which we are beginning to develop through machine learning for just-in-time adaptive interventions. Together, these studies speak to the promise of virtual technology to address longstanding barriers to PA, health, and wellbeing resulting from the social isolation of living with uncommon chronic diseases.