Call for a postdoctoral researcher: Novel data-driven approaches to the treatment of overweight, obesity, and other lifestyle-associated health conditions

The two research groups, together with an industry partner, jointly form an interdisciplinary and innovative research collaboration for studying novel socio-technical aspects of behavioral medicine, digital health interventions and health behavior change support systems, especially for the prevention and treatment of overweight, obesity, and other lifestyle-associated health conditions.

PSD presentation

This domain is critically important as 40% of the determinants of health and their contribution to premature death are due to behavioral patterns – these patterns can be influenced by information technology. The always available modern computing opens up opportunities to match the appropriate digital health interventions with the actual needs of the users. Moreover, these systems maintain powers to motivate users to set goals and encourage and persuade to adopt a desirable target behavior. However, researchers have not really been able to explain what really works, for whom, when, how, and why in these interventions. We study and explain psychological, behavioral and software-related factors associated with successful digital health interventions. A cornerstone provided for this project is a spin-off from the University of Oulu, known as Onnikka. This persuasive mobile application is provided to the healthcare markets by Onnikka Health company. It enables a vast amount of and ever-growing behavioral, system usage and health outcome data to be analysed parallelly.

Secondary use of data is enabled as data with real patients and participants from three previously conducted large randomized controlled trials (RCT) and one large ongoing European RCT will also be made available as baseline for this project. Health data includes demographic variables, anthropometric measurements such as height, weight, blood pressure, and laboratory values on the most important risk factors of cardiovascular disease and mortality. Crucially, the changes in these variables as affected by the use of Onnikka, in comparison with the appropriate control me data.

One of the central ideas in this project is to combine these data with register data obtained from the national health registries such the Finnish Care Register for Social Welfare and Health Care (Hilmo and Avohilmo) and the registry on the medication prescriptions. This register data will enable us to analyze the app usage patterns and individual behavioral traits as the determinants of the health care resource use with an 8-year follow-up (long-term effectiveness and health effects). Another central idea is to search for the predictors of the more immediate effect, i.e., weight change in the RCT data as well as real world data gathered during regular use of the app as a commercially available treatment for overweight and obesity.

Researchers will work at the interface between the academic world and non-academic organisations. Intersectorial exposure is increased by a secondment in the partnering Onnikka Health company. In sum, we bring together a diverse team of experts, including data scientists, information systems designers, and healthcare professionals. This data science project will develop new methods for data sciences and open up for the applicant an avenue for developing an international scientific career.

More information:
The postdoctoral researcher position is part of an MSCA COFUND Data4Healthcare program at the University of Oulu:

The postdoctoral researcher selected in the Data4Healthcare program will by default be offered a 36-month fixed-term full-time employment contract by the University of Oulu. The selected applicant is expected to start his/her project in September 2024.

Detailed information about the position mentioned above on the University of Oulu’s Data4Healthcare website:

Please see the headline:
Novel data-driven approaches to the treatment of overweight, obesity, and other lifestyle-associated health conditions

Read more, and apply by March 15, 2024:

Last updated: 12.2.2024