Now Reading: Dr Chandana research in using smart technologies to help global societies lead healthier lives

Dr Chandana Unnithan

Dr Chandana research in using smart technologies to help global societies lead healthier lives

Dr Chandana Unnithan is an Associate Professor in Health faculty at Torrens University Australia and currently, the Director of Centre for Healthy Futures (CHEF) – Torrens University’s research centre in Health. She is also a senior research fellow in public health. Chandana has been with Torrens University Australia since 2014 as Subject Matter Expert in Health Informatics with a focus on applied research in public health. Her research portfolio spans 20 years in applied health informatics (also known as Digital Health today) in Australia and globally. Prior to joining Laureate, Chandana has had a long academic and professional career, having worked with IBM, INTEL, Monash University, Deakin University and LaTrobe University Australia – to name a few.

Chandana is a nominated member from Australia to ‘Space and Global Health’ – an expert group that reports to the Scientific and Technical Committee (STSC) of the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space technologies (COPUOS), within the Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). The expert group is a consortium that includes various space agencies (NASA, ESA, CSA etc), Public health agencies from many countries (eg. PHAC) and WHO. The group engages in global projects utilising geo-spatial technologies in health risk mitigation.  Chandana advises and applies the ‘Living Labs’ approach promoted by United Nations, to co-create solutions with citizens of countries, based on their evolving needs – may it be simple applications to strategies to be implemented in conjunction with governments. She says,

“As we navigate digital age, the PPPs (prevent, promote and protect) have become more important globally in public health. We face new challenges — may it be environment related risks, new diseases and medical conditions. There is an expressed need to live healthy lives as people are becoming aware and responsible of their own health. We now live in the digital age with permeation of smart technologies and applications, where there is a need to monitor health information about ourselves, on our finger tips.  On this journey, I work with the UN expert group on Space and Global Health, where we study the use of smart technologies (AI, VR, AR) and geospatial technologies, that can assist global societies in building healthy lives”.

Through the UN group, Chandana partners with space agencies, WHO, UN, members of public health agencies and informatics-based labs, represented by people from various countries. Chandana’s applied research practice was brought up in Australia, which is now ahead of many nations in terms of technology use in health. She has been involved with and have implemented/pioneered technology applications in large public hospitals in Australia. The knowledge is now being solicited and in demand for translation in counties such as Canada, highlighting the Australian expertise in the globe. According to Chandana,

What is applicable in our context in Australia is also applicable and transferable across many countries such as Canada immediately. The current implementation of electronic health records in Australia stands as a testimony for our strength in this space. With varied applications and a connected health record, we can now monitor our own health and get help when required. I am helping with this knowledge transfer across borders. Knowledge that can be applied locally and globally is our asset, and it is of current significance and for future”.

Dr Chandana research in using smart technologies to help global societies lead healthier lives

In the true sense of ‘Here for Good’ commitment of Laureate globally, Chandana’s research is directly related to public health – using innovative technologies (commonly known as IoT) to prevent diseases, promote and protect health. Chandana has been involved with many health technology projects in the city of Melbourne, Australia. These projects involve citizen, government and industry partnerships, applying smart technologies to improve public health outcomes. In the process, she has partnered with major technology and professional service firms such as IBM, INTEL, Deloitte, HP, City councils, and local governments.

With a practical, applied viewpoint in research, Chandana has published over 100 research articles, combining her knowledge and expertise, sharing knowledge that emanated from projects and collaborating with colleagues across the world. Some of her recent projects are collaborating with colleagues in Canada from University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. She is advising on smart healthy cities development with IoT applications in Canada; digitisation project for hospitals (data analytics, integration and technology implementation/evaluation; knowledge translating blockchain applications in health from Australia to Canada; and also investigating co-morbidities in the context of ageing in Australia/Canada (from Public Health perspective) and the effectiveness current and potential of health- tech interventions.

Chandana is also working on developing a global digital health map along with her colleague from Harvard University USA. This research project focuses on how exponential technologies are being imbibed into global societies, as they evolve, in improving health outcomes. According to Chandana,

“We have the potential to grow exponentially in the research space, as we are a young and dynamic university, based in Australia, with networks to leverage from through Laureate. Our biggest strength is applied health research that is directly transferable globally”

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