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Dagstuhl Perspectives Workshop 14272

Exploring Interdisciplinary Grand Challenges in ICT Design to Support Proactive Health and Wellbeing

( Jun 29 – Jul 02, 2014 )

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Can Internet-enabled information and communication technology (ICT) help improve our wellbeing and quality of life?

While the world increasingly becomes a digital knowledge economy, we still carry out our digital practices in-bodied in physical brains & bodies, brains and bodies that seem to be getting globally less well. Quality of life measures, for instance, which are linked to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), suggest that although Internet connectivity affords greater access to information resources and social infrastructures, it does not correlate with better physical and mental health, nor with better wellbeing. Even after accounting for improved diagnosis and detection, statistics indicate health problems are on the rise rather than diminishing even in the most resourced of countries. For example, the costs, from treatment to sick leave, associated just with overweight and obesity reach billions annually in each of the top 22 industrialized nations alone. In a recent survey we carried out with over 1100 respondents in health-oriented social networks, participants reported an average BMI that was lower than national averages but still well over 25 (overweight), showing an increased disease risk.

Put baldly, the Internet is not helping the Internet-connected to better physical nor better mental health.

There have been considerable successes in ICT in eHealth, such as deploying mobile devices to address drug adherence, extend human expert contact, and encourage engagement in proactive healthcare activities. From an infrastructure perspective, better supply-chain management has helped keep health support costs down.

However, little work is being done on understanding the broader implications of these disparate efforts. There are also open questions about these initiatives that, to date, have been centered on top of the financial pyramid, and can be scaled to an inclusive and global agenda. Questions about specific versus general interventions and about local versus global solutions need to be posed.

We are inviting you to help shape grand challenges for the design of ICT to support wellbeing, from policy to implementation to measures of success.

We believe that even greater benefits for improved Quality of Life (QoL) can be realized by moving upstream from medical intervention and healthcare for those already diagnosed as "ill" to the design of Proactive Health and Wellbeing. While not focused on medical health issues specifically, proactive strategies for wellbeing are key in proactive healthcare. Reducing the numbers of people who become ill in the first place, particularly with respect to preventable lifestyle conditions such as obesity and heart disease, will reduce costs of healthcare support. Improving lifestyle performance will have direct international impact, at economic, social and personal levels.

The Dagstuhl Perspectives Workshop will focus on Designing a Shared Vision of and Action Plan for Grand Challenges for Wellbeing Design. A goal in this workshop is to develop the ICT research agenda that will enable researchers, designers and industry professionals to realize the promise of these approaches and so achieve impact at meaningful scale. The overall objective for the workshop is to lay the foundations for an international, interdisciplinary collaborative activity focused on ICT and Proactive Health and Wellbeing.


To date poor health costs billions annually, negatively impacting our nations' GDPs. Costs include provision of healthcare for acute and chronic physical and mental conditions and reductions in productivity resulting from absences from work due to sickness.

Much hope has been placed in the deployment of networked information and communications technologies (ICTs) to improve the health of citizens, engage them in proactive healthcare strategies, and thus reduce the likelihood of illness in the first place. Part of the promise is that ICTs in the form of personal, commercial and infrastructural/ governmental platforms may be deployed ubiquitously, pervasively and more cost-effectively than one-to-one human care.

This perspective draws primarily from advances in mHealth and eHealth in the medical community. The focus in these domains, however, is to see health as a medical condition, focussing on tracking and management of patient records, support for doctor-patient interaction, and technologies for regimen adherence and therapy management. In our view, an excellent complement to this perspective is a focus on Proactive Health and Wellbeing, where the concept of health is broadened from being the absence or management of a medical condition or conditions to include a personal engagement with and understanding of wellbeing. ICT has, so far, delivered less success in this arena [4].

The Perspectives Workshop on Exploring Interdisciplinary Grand Challenges in ICT Design to Support Proactive Health and Wellbeing was convened to engage with these issues. We invited scholars to focus on Proactive Health and to elicit what key challenges we need to address in ICT that, if we were to put in concerted and coordinated effort as a community, would have demonstrable effect. We invited reflection on the promise of ICT in contributing to global health, GDP and wellbeing. Our participants have come from various areas in computer science, principally Human Computer Interaction, Data Science and Information Studies, both from industry and academia. We also had participation from psychology, sociology, sports science, medicine and neural science. While most participants were established research leads, we also reached out to up-and-coming, early career researchers in Computer Science and Human Computer Interaction who have a developing track record on health and wellbeing related topics. These individuals will be the future leads in this emerging field.

Over the three days of our workshop we developed 5 key challenge areas, focusing on the significance of each challenge, success at year 1, 3 and 10, as well as resources required to facilitate success. These areas correspond to data sciences, motivational modeling, design thinking, framework building, and a higher order rethinking of the space of "health":

  1. Developing Effective Methodologies, Measures and Metrics for Understanding Proactive Health and Wellbeing. Small and "Big" data need to be captured, cleaned and curated to more effectively reflect hard-to-measure experiential aspects of wellbeing. Qualitative data are needed to better understand what is being captured quantitatively, and to enable a deeper understanding of the diversity of experience and to more deeply investigate what is represented in the data within the "long tail".
  2. Understanding Motivation and Sensemaking. New models of motivation and sense making are needed in order to more deeply understand people's aspirations and the contingencies of their everyday lives that enable or prevent personal proactive health and wellbeing practices. A move from imposing normative models of "change" to understanding how sustained motivation and self- and other-persuasion can result in new and innovative technology-enabled programs is needed.
  3. Rethinking Design Practices. We need reflective design practices that focus on the phenomenological aspects of a design to complement designs that focus on intervention and instrumental goal achievement. This arena relates to the need for better motivational models, but addresses the ways in which our design practices mould what we create. How can we more effectively move basic science into applied science and more effective engineering?
  4. Creating New Frameworks and Models. We need to develop frameworks and models that take into account unconscious as well as conscious drivers of human behavior, that better connect 'body', 'mind' and 'feeling' experiences, that address emotions as well as cognitive processing, and that acknowledge rhythms of participation and non-participation that are health-positive as well as those that are health negative. This requires a deeper engagement with psychosocial, brain and biological sciences to develop and bring into perspective more holistic frameworks and models.
  5. Rethinking the Phenomenology and Epistemology of "Health". Rolling the previous areas up, one of the broader challenges directly addresses how to drive multi disciplinary thinking in regard to proactive wellbeing. A new field of enquiry at the intersection of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Computer Science, we need to think about how to motivate and increase engagement from researchers, from designers and engineers, from policy makers, from governmental agencies and from business leaders.

The key outcome of the workshop is an affirmation that a focus on Proactive Health and Wellbeing is both timely and socially necessary, and represents a viable area of research and development. A suite of near-term future activities have been planned and "owned" by participants to drive forward in the coming 6 months. Activities include a follow up Dagstuhl seminar, and workshops, panels, summer schools, invited publications, special issues, and the establishment of an area conference. We have also agreed to explore new ways to engage around experimental design, feedback and collaborative work. We invite potential collaborators to contact us for further discussion and to learn more about our ongoing efforts in this emerging arena of Wellth Sciences.

Copyright m.c. schraefel and Elizabeth F. Churchill

  • Lars L. Andersen (NRCWE - Copenhagen, DK)
  • Susanne Boll (Universität Oldenburg, DE) [dblp]
  • Alan Chamberlain (University of Nottingham, GB) [dblp]
  • Adrian David Cheok (City University - London, GB) [dblp]
  • Elizabeth F. Churchill (eBay Research Labs, US) [dblp]
  • Maria Francesca Costabile (University of Bari, IT) [dblp]
  • Ed Cutrell (Microsoft Research India - Bangalore, IN) [dblp]
  • Catalina Danis (IBM TJ Watson Research Center - Yorktown Heights, US) [dblp]
  • Adrian Friday (Lancaster University, GB) [dblp]
  • Katherine Isbister (New York University, US) [dblp]
  • Wolfgang Maaß (Universität des Saarlandes, DE) [dblp]
  • Florian Michahelles (Siemens Corporation - Berkeley, US) [dblp]
  • Sean A. Munson (University of Washington - Seattle, US) [dblp]
  • Les Nelson (Xerox PARC - Palo Alto, US) [dblp]
  • Erika Poole (Pennsylvania State University, US) [dblp]
  • Albrecht Schmidt (Universität Stuttgart, DE) [dblp]
  • m.c. schraefel (University of Southampton, GB) [dblp]
  • Katie A. Siek (Indiana University - Bloomington, US) [dblp]
  • Gisela Sjogaard (University of Southern Denmark - Odense, DK)
  • Carlos Trenado (Uniklinikum Freiburg, DE)

  • mobile computing
  • society / human-computer interaction
  • world wide web / internet

  • human performance
  • qol
  • quality of life
  • information technology
  • hci