NEW YORK – The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH) and the United States Military Academy at West Point an estimated $8.1 million over five years, pending available funds, to establish the world’s first artificial intelligence (AI) and computational modeling center for precision nutrition and health. Precision nutrition is an emerging area aimed at better tailoring diets to different people’s characteristics and circumstances to achieve better health outcomes. This award is part of the Nutrition for Precision Health, powered by the All of Us Research Program (NPH) initiative, a $170 million NIH-wide effort and first independent study that will recruit a diverse pool of participants from All of Us to inform more personalized nutrition recommendations. The NPH and the center are part of the NIH’s Common Fund, a special program aimed at catalyzing multiple biomedical disciplines.
The center will develop state-of-the-art AI, machine learning (ML), Big Data methods, and other data science approaches to better understand and improve diet and nutrition. This will include new ways to better understand how individuals have different dietary needs and avoid potential biases and disparities that may result from various nutrition recommendations. The center will be co-led by two world-renowned AI and computational modeling experts, Bruce Y. Lee, MD, MBA, professor of health policy and management at CUNY SPH and executive director of PHICOR (Public Health Informatics, Computational, and Operations Research) and Diana M. Thomas, PhD, professor and research chair of mathematics at West Point.
“As the nation’s leading urban public university, CUNY is proud to help drive cutting-edge research, in partnership with West Point, that aims to bring more equity to nutrition and health approaches,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “The Nutrition for Precision Health initiative will leverage the expertise of CUNY SPH as well as the University’s great diversity, reach and dedication to social justice. With their renowned work in artificial intelligence and computational modeling, Drs. Lee and Thomas are the ideal scholars to lead this ambitious new center.”
“Our society is at a key inflection point,” says Lee. “We now have much more data and technology available to guide diet and nutrition in ways that have not been previously done. This could greatly improve the health of people around the world; however, if not done correctly, it could worsen health outcomes and deepen disparities in health.”
“This is the first time that leading experts in data science, statistics, and systems modeling will collaborate with the top nutrition clinical and nutrition research centers in the U.S.,” says Thomas. “The effort is unique and extremely timely as we can combine new AI approaches with unprecedented levels of computing power to develop algorithms for personalized nutrition guidance.”
The center will include multiple major projects, including one led by AI expert Samantha Kleinberg, PhD, associate professor at Stevens Institute of Technology, and another led by social network expert Kayla de la Haye, PhD, associate professor at the University of Southern California. “AI and ML have helped advance many areas of health research, but we haven’t seen the benefits in nutrition because we’ve lacked the key ingredient: large scale, high quality, data on diverse populations,” says Kleinberg. “This award grants us the opportunity to finally go beyond correlations to learn not just what factors are related to health outcomes but how diet causes them and for whom.”
The center will develop data science approaches and technology to address the whole complex system of factors that affect nutrition and health, ranging from genetics to metabolism to behavior to a person’s social and physical environment. “Studies have shown that diet and nutrition can be affected by the people and things around you and your circumstances,” says de la Haye.
The connection between CUNY SPH and West Point is unique. For the first time, the public academic institutions will collectively utilize their technologies and resources in a way that improves health inequities and advances precision nutrition and health.
This work is supported by the NIH Common Fund’s Nutrition for Precision Health, powered by the All of Us Research Program grant U54 TR004279-01.
The City University of New York is the nation’s largest urban public university, a transformative engine of social mobility that provides a first-rate public education to over 260,000 students of diverse backgrounds on 25 campuses and conducts innovative research in the public interest.
About CUNY SPH
The CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH) is committed to promoting and sustaining healthier populations in New York City and around the world through excellence in education, research, and service in public health and by advocating for sound policy and practice to advance social justice and improve health outcomes for all.
About United States Military Academy at West Point
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point is a four-year, co-educational, federal, liberal arts college located 50 miles north of New York City. It was founded in 1802 as America’s first college of engineering and continues today as the world’s premier leader-development institution, consistently ranked among top colleges in the country. Its mission remains constant—to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the nation as an officer in the U. S. Army. For more information, go to www.westpoint.edu.
Since 2007, PHICOR has been dedicated to researching and developing new ways to help decision makers better understand and address complex systems in health and public health. Follow @PHICORTeam for updates.