CalFit for the European PHENOTYPE Study

The European PHENOTYPE study is investigating the relationship between the natural environment and human health and wellbeing. The study led by Mark Nieuwenhuijsen at ISGlobal (previously CREAL) aims to explore people’s exposures to greenspace through the use of a variety of assessment methods.

One approach that was used in a subset of approximately 400 PHENOTYPE study subjects in four European countries was an Android smartphone app.  The app, CalFit was developed by my research group explicitly for exposure assessment studies. The app tracks time-location patterns using GPS and physical activity using accelerometry.  Different versions of the CalFit app were developed to fit the needs of different environmental health studies, including studies in the US and in China.  For the PHENOTYPE study an Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) module was developed that asked study subjects to answer occasional questions about their affective state (e.g., stress, happiness, etc.) in different environments. The EMA also prompts subjects to collect videos of their surroundings.

The app was designed for Android version 2.3.6, and was only deployed on Samsung Galaxy Y study phones. Since development of the CalFit app was carried out a few years ago, no testing on current generation Android phones has been done, and it is unclear whether the app still operates as designed with newer versions of Android or newer phones.  The app is available here, without support and with minimal documentation:

CalFit Program v20130716 with Dutch, English, Lithuanian, and Spanish PHENOTYPE surveys

While CalFit is no longer being supported, my group is developing a new app from scratch to leverage the current capabilities of smart devices. It will be released under a new name, and with a new focus not only on environmental exposure assessment, but on behavioral health.  Look for this new app to be used in the NIH “Native-Controlling Hypertension and Risk Through Technology (NATIVE-CHART)” study led by Dedra Buchwald at Washington State University.

If you have interest in using the new app, please contact me: Edmund Seto


New Study to Develop Methods to Analyze Ecological Momentary Assessment Data

Just heard, NIH NHLBI will fund a new study with collaborators from USC (Genevieve Dunton, Mary Ann Pentz, and Chih-Ping Chou), UC Berkeley (Michael Jerrett), and Northeastern (Stephen Intille), and UW (Edmund Seto) to develop new statistical modeling approaches to analyze large data from Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) studies.

This new study builds upon the work we’ve done with the CalFit system, using smartphone-based EMAs to study the associations between mood, physical activity, and a person’s environment.

Fieldwork Completed for the Shanghai CalFit Beverage Study

Working with researchers from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and the Shanghai CDC, we just finished fieldwork for a study of beverage consumption using the CalFit smartphone system.

We used the CalFit smartphone application to conduct surveys of beverages consumed by everyday people living in and around the city in Shanghai.  The study will compare beverage consumption recorded by phone versus methods used in the Chinese National Health and Nutrition Survey.  Additionally, the CalFit system will provide information on the spatial and temporal patterns of beverages consumed across urban and rural neighborhoods.



CalFit EMA — Smartphone-based Ecological Momentary Assessment

CalFit EMA allows researchers to conduct Ecological Momentary Assessments (EMAs) using smartphones.

EMAs are short surveys — a few questions — that occur during random times during the day.  They measure in-the-moment actions, emotions, and location.  The use of smartphones for EMA takes advantage of the fact that many people are already used to and comfortable with carrying their phone, and responding during the day to phone calls, text messages, emails, calendar events, etc.  Mobile EMAs capture what traditional paper questionnaires and direct observation studies cannot because researchers cannot following subjects for long periods of time (and even if they did so they would likely alter the subjects’ behaviors).

CalFit EMA is part of the CalFit system of apps.  CalFit EMA together with CalFit D (a time-location and physical activity tracker) provides rich contextual sensing of an individuals health.

CalFit EMA is extremely flexible.  It has these features:

  • Runs on inexpensive Android 2.3.3+ phones (e.g., ~$130 Samsung Galaxy Y phone).
  • Completely customizable questionnaires.
  • Can be used with or without a SIM-activated Android phone.
  • Using a SIM-activited phone with a mobile data plan allows for real-time data uploading to an Internet server.  If used without a SIM, data are simply stored on the phone’s memory card, and researchers can download the data later.
  • The phone logs times and locations when EMAs are completed allowing for studies of both temporal and spatial contextual factors.









CalFit EMA was developed by Dr. Seto through a grant from the NIH NIEHS R01ES020409.

If interested in using CalFit EMA, contact Dr. Seto.