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Eric Hekler - UC San Diego. San Diego, CA, US

Eric Hekler Eric Hekler

Associate Professor, Family Medicine And Public Health | UC San Diego


Research is broadly focused on advancing methods in the design, creation, optimization, evaluation, & reuse of digital health technologies.





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2019 mHTI: Agile Science: Behavior Change in the Real World by Eric Hekler Flipping the Paradigm to Achieve Precision Health




Dr. Eric Hekler, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine & Public Health in the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), the Director of the Center for Wireless & Population Health Systems within the Qualcomm Institute at UCSD, and the faculty member of the Design Lab at UCSD. His research is broadly focused on advancing methods in the design, creation, optimization, evaluation, and reuse (scaling up and out) of digital health technologies. His goal is to contribute towards a form of applied science that facilitates equitable participation, contribution, and benefit for all. There are three interdependent themes to his research, advancing: 1) methods for optimizing adaptive behavioral interventions; 2) methods and processes to help people and communities help themselves: and 3) research pipelines to achieve efficient, rigorous, context-relevant solutions for complex problems, a domain he and his colleagues have called agile science. He has over 100 publications that span the many disciplines he contributes and has an active federal and foundation funding. He is recognized internationally as an expert in the area of digital health.

Areas of Expertise (6)


Psychology During COVID-19

Digital Health

Agile Science

Precision Health


Education (3)

Rutgers University: Ph.D., Clinical Health Psychology 2008

Rutgers University: M.S., Clinical Health Psychology 2004

SUNY Albany: B.A., Psychology 2002

Media Appearances (2)

Study of You - The Brian Lehrer Show

WNYC  online


Ida Sim, physician and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, where she co-directs Informatics and Research Innovation at UCSF's Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, and Eric Hekler, associate professor in the department of family medicine & public health in the University of California, San Diego, discuss their project "The Study of Me" and explain how listeners can participate.

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Is digital health a behavioral science?

MedCity News  online


A recent Fortune article on big data in healthcare quoted Dr. Brennan Spiegel, a physician-scientist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center as saying, “Digital health is not a computer science or an engineering science; it’s a social science and a behavioral science,” in the context of a discussion on the hype-evidence gap in digital health. He tweeted the same line back in August, eliciting hundreds of retweets and shares.

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Research Focus (3)

SCH: Control Systems Engineering for Counteracting Notification Fatigue: An Examination of Health Behavior Change

NIH R01LM013107

2019-2023 Role: Principal Investigator

Operationalizing Behavioral Theory for mHealth: Dynamics, Context, and Personalization

NIH U01CA229445

2018-2022 Role: Co-Investigator

Social Mobile Approaches to Reduce Weight (SMART) 2.0


2018-2023 Role: Co-Investigator

Articles (5)

Tuning: an approach for supporting healthful adaptation


2020 The concept of tuning relates to aligning one component with another in order to work together. Something is always in tune with something else. This tuning is necessary for these related components to work together. In music, tuning relates to achieving certain harmonic resonances within an instrument and across instruments.

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Modelling multiple health behavior change with network analyses: results from a one-year study conducted among overweight and obese adults

Journal of Behavioral Medicine

2020 This study examined the between-person associations of seven health behaviors in adults with obesity participating in a weight loss intervention, as well as the covariations between these behaviors within-individuals across the intervention. The present study included data from a 12-month weight loss trial (N = 278).

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Improving Usability of Social and Behavioral Sciences’ Evidence: A Call to Action for a National Infrastructure Project for Mining Our Knowledge

Communications of the Association for Information Systems

2020 Over the last century, the social and behavioral sciences have accumulated a vast storehouse of knowledge with the potential to transform society and all its constituents. Unfortunately, this knowledge has accumulated in a form (eg, journal papers) and scale that makes it extremely difficult to search, categorize, analyze, and integrate across studies.

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Why we need a small data paradigm

BMC Medicine

2019 There is great interest in and excitement about the concept of personalized or precision medicine and, in particular, advancing this vision via various ‘big data’ efforts. While these methods are necessary, they are insufficient to achieve the full personalized medicine promise.

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The effect of digital physical activity interventions on daily step count: a randomised controlled crossover substudy of the MyHeart Counts Cardiovascular Health Study

The Lancet Digital Health

2019 Smartphone apps might enable interventions to increase physical activity, but few randomised trials testing this hypothesis have been done. The MyHeart Counts Cardiovascular Health Study is a longitudinal smartphone-based study with the aim of elucidating the determinants of cardiovascular health.

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