Dhruv Jain receives NIH grant to improve health education for people with sensory disabilities

Prof. Jain and his collaborators in Michigan Medicine will develop best practices to increase health literacy and access to information for patients with disabilities.
Prof. Dhruv Jain
Prof. Dhruv Jain

People with sensory disabilities such as visual impairment and deafness face significant obstacles in accessing and navigating the healthcare system. These challenges have led to growing health disparities for the 28 million-plus individuals with these disabilities, resulting in poorer mental and physical health outcomes.

Researchers in CSE and Michigan Medicine, including Prof. Dhruv Jain, have received a $450,000 grant from the National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, to address this inequity by developing a set of best practices and tools to improve health education for people with sensory disabilities.

“Our goal is to gain a more thorough understanding of the challenges that people with sensory disabilities face in accessing health resources,” said Jain, “as well as to develop innovative ways to overcome these issues.”

Jain and his collaborators, Prof. Michael McKee and Prof. Tyler James of Michigan Medicine, will take a three-pronged approach to broaden access to health education for people with sensory disabilities. The first stage will be to develop a more thorough understanding of the accessibility needs of these patients and use this knowledge to design more user-centered tools to improve health education. The second and final stages of the project will involve developing checklists for assessing patient health education and evaluating the utility of these checklists in improving the health education of people with sensory disabilities, particularly in the areas of advanced care planning and diabetes.

As co-investigator on this project, Jain will leverage his expertise in human-computer interaction and machine learning to develop digital tools that can help people with sensory disabilities better access and understand health resources. 

“My past research has involved building technology systems and evaluating how these systems perform in the field,” said Jain, “which will help us in designing healthcare tools and materials that actually work for the intended users.”

Jain’s prior research has addressed a number of key issues related to accessibility, and his work has resulted in significant advances in accessible technology for visually impaired and deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals. One of his innovations, an indoor navigation system for visually impaired people, has been released to the public and has over 100,000 users.

Through their efforts, Jain and his co-investigators aim to design and implement digital materials and informational resources to strengthen health education among people with sensory disabilities, thus increasing health literacy and access among this underserved population and simultaneously improving health outcomes.

“Greater health equity requires a better understanding of the challenges and needs of people with disabilities,” said Jain. “This grant will allow us to achieve this knowledge and design innovative solutions to remove barriers to health education for these patients.”

Dhruv Jain; Honors and Awards; Research News; e-HAIL