If you’ve ever used a health app to track your menstrual cycle or count steps, you’ll want to follow Mayara Costa Figueiredo’s research. According to a recent Gallup survey, 20 percent of U.S. adults employ health apps, with high-income households, women and young adults among the most enthusiastic users. An interest in the intersection of health informatics and human-computer interaction led Figueiredo from her native Brazil to UCI’s Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences, where she works under the supervision of Associate Professor Yunan Chen and Professor Kai Zheng in the Health and Informatics Lab.
Her thesis focuses on understanding the uncertainties women face when self-tracking their fertility and how to better support them. She interviews patients and healthcare providers, analyzes social media, and evaluates the design of mobile apps that track fertility. You could call her a scientist-advocate for health app users. “I love technology, but I love people more,” Figueiredo says. “I want to help people and support their activities as they use technology to gain knowledge about their health.” Her analysis of health app utilization illuminates the role of technology in educating individuals about their bodies. “People who are trying to conceive often don’t know how their body works,” she says. Data tracking can empower users but also provoke anxiety and depression if the desired results are not achieved. Figueiredo’s goal is for her research to improve the design of self-tracking health apps. She says: “Apps should promote positive behaviors while setting realistic expectations.”
Article originally published at UCI News.