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University Researchers Develop Software To Address Mental Health Challenges In Latino Community

niversity researches have developed a software to address the mental health challenges the Hispanic community faces amid the COVID19 pandemic.
Courtesy of Francisco Gonzalez

Researchers at North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T University have found that Hispanic communities are at a greater risk for mental health challenges during the pandemic.

They're using a prototype software system that aims to help policymakers and healthcare providers better address these challenges across the U.S. It consists of two computational modules that can help users determine how best to prepare for the future and identify the best courses of action to alleviate mental health challenges.

"We have solutions that can help, potentially a lot of people that are facing mental health issues, either from lockdown, or some other issues that has been generated due to COVID-19," N.C. State Ph.D. student and researcher Tanzid Hasnain said. "We believe that a lot of people are facing mental health issues and that was the biggest inspiration for us to develop this product to help people in general."

The system was developed in two weeks using open-source data and programming tools. The two computational modules used within the system are a predictive tool and a prescriptive tool.

The predictive tool is a model that uses state-level data from multiple sources to predict the percentage of the Latino population that may have symptoms of anxiety and depression in the following week. That determination is based on information from unemployment claims, COVID cases, and deaths and insurance coverage.

"We developed the whole predictive tool based on historical data that is available publicly available from the CDC website and other governments bodies," N.C. State Ph.D. student and researcher Rahman Khorramfar said. "After initial analysis, we came to the conclusion to focus on the group that is strongly affected by this COVID-19, which turned out to be Hispanic population in the United States."

The prescriptive tool in the software helps users figure out what course of action can help the most people. This tool would be used by government officials, healthcare providers, or other stakeholders.

"Let's say you are a mayor of a city and you are seeing that your city population has been suffering from mental health issues," Hasnain said. "So that tool can advise that mayor, to basically take what actions in each period to ultimately alleviate the mental health issues faced by the city over time."

Researchers hope to release the software to the public in the near future.

Naomi P. Brown joined WUNC in January 2017.
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