Dr Gloria Washington on empathetic fitness trackers

Dr. Gloria Washington is an Assistant Professor at Howard University in the Computer Science Department. At Howard, she runs the Affective Biometrics Lab and performs research with her students on affective computing, biometrics, and computer science education. Her research is supported by the Department of Homeland Security, Leidos, and the TIDES Foundation. Before coming to Howard University she was an Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Computing Science at Clemson University. She performed research on identifying individuals based solely from pictures of their ears. Dr. Washington has more than fifteen years in Government service and has presented on her research throughout industry. Ms. Washington holds M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from The George Washington University, and a B.S. in Computer Information Systems from Lincoln University of Missouri.

Dr. Washington’s talk had highlighted that the incidence of children with chronic disease is growing in the U.S. and these children have special educational needs that relate to the way they learn how to care for themselves. Children with chronic disease learn positive health behaviors taught through self-management education taught by patient advocates, nurses, and their families. Unfortunately, this education usually begins around age 10 or 12; leading some to develop unhealthy habits and lack self-efficacy in improving their health. Fitness trackers were first created to help adults keep abreast of their fitness goals. However, these devices are slowly being introduced to children. There are no health and wellness technologies that are designed for children and exploit human physiological information to interpret and empathize with a child’s mental and/or physical health. Additionally, social cognitive models/theories were developed to help educational professionals identify the factors that influence how a person learns positive and negative health behaviors. These models include factors related to ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic status. Although these factors have proved significant in helping to design educational interventions for health psychologists; these theories have not been adapted for creation of educational materials relevant to children with chronic disease. There exists an opportunity for a new genre of fitness trackers that empathizes with the user, teaches positive health behaviors, contributes to a child’s self-efficacy and emphasizes the scientific underpinnings of a disease. This tool should also allow children the ability to teach themselves, their peers, and their caregivers through show and tell, positive reinforcement, and fun game-based activities. This talk focuses on introduction of a new empathetic fitness tracker that is used for instructional teaching of young children with chronic disease.

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