Researcher Spotlight: Jessie Chin

Jessie Chin
Jessie Chin, Assistant Professor

Researchers all across the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus are working toward advancing knowledge and creating solutions to critical health disparities on both local and global scales. These researchers evaluate health disparities from a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives, and work to find ways to address the discrepancies within medicine, child development, law, food access, education, and health communication. Each Researcher Spotlight features a health disparities researcher doing important work right here at Illinois.

Jessie Chin is an assistant professor in the iSchool and the principal investigator of The Adaptive Cognition and Interaction Design (ACTION) Lab. Her research aims to advance knowledge in cognitive sciences regarding evolving human interaction with the contemporary information technologies and translating theories in social and behavioral sciences to the design of technologies and interaction experience to promote health communication and behavior across the lifespan. Chin earned her doctoral degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Q: What is your research in health disparities about?

My research program is to bridge theories in cognitive sciences, behavioral medicine, and human-computer interaction to develop sociotechnical solutions for promoting health of diverse populations, especially older adults with inadequate health literacy. There are two main ongoing research themes. The first one is to promote the dissemination of correct, useful, and reliable health knowledge to all. Ongoing projects focus on addressing health misinformation and the delivery of evidence-based health knowledge for adults with different levels of health literacy. The second research theme is to improve the implementation of evidence-based health interventions to adults in the rural area or patients with diverse backgrounds through developing innovative, accessible, and scalable socio-technical solutions. Ongoing projects include the development of conversational agents to promote health knowledge and lifestyle management of older adults at home.

Q: How are you conducting your research?

I use both behavioral and computational methods to conduct research. My research takes advantage of quantitative (such as controlled behavioral experiments) and computational (such as modeling) methods to build our understandings of human self-regulated behavior in complex information environments. Based on basic science research, I use mixed methods (such as observations, interviews, surveys, cognitive work analysis, randomized controlled trials, etc.) to conduct translational studies to examine the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of interventions in the field.

Q: How does being a part of the Illinois community support and enhance your research?

The University of Illinois has nourished my research interests in health disparities; and provided me the opportunities to translate my lab research to community-based intervention studies in the field. I obtain constant support for building my scholarly research programs as well as connecting with practice from the communities in Illinois (Urbana-Champaign and Chicago). Faculty members from the OSF in Peoria and the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences (UI Health) in Chicago are my partners and mentors for guiding me to conduct research with clinical significance (in addition to scientific significance). I also benefit tremendously from the advancement of multidisciplinary research at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Sciences and Technology (from being a graduate fellow to faculty affiliate). Most importantly, I especially appreciate the support of all the older adults in our community for their research participation. I have learned a lot from our communities!

Q: How will your research or work improve society or reach people?

The overarching goal of my work is to promote the implementation and dissemination of health knowledge and service to different stakeholders and diverse patient populations in our society. For example, under the first research theme, one study aims at building a systematic and automatic way to identify cancer-related misinformation and assess its impact on health-related beliefs and behavior. This line of research would make contributions to public health for identifying high-risk misinformation and at-risk information consumers. Under the second research theme, one study aims at promoting the access to health interventions and the development of lifestyle management for older adults at home through innovative technologies. This line of research would help improve the delivery of healthcare and chronic illness control and prevention to a broader elderly population.

Q: Do you have a personal story to share or path that led to your interest in this area of study?

My interests in health promotion, technology, and aging root in the bonds between my grandma and me. My grandma has been struggling with multiple health problems and is not able to manage her health well given difficulties understanding health information as well as following advice from healthcare providers. This makes me start thinking about how to deliver accessible health information and service to diverse older adults. During my graduate study, my adviser, Dr. Dan Morrow (Professor in Educational Psychology), introduced me to the research in health literacy and the importance of translational research. We have conducted a series of studies to understand the underlying components of health literacy, the differential effects of health knowledge on processing health texts among older adults, the relations between health literacy and health comprehension among older adults, and the validation of a systematic approach to reengineer online information for promoting health comprehension of older adults with different levels of health literacy. These have built my foundation and passion in research in health disparities.

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