Iowa researchers address health biases in artificial intelligence

Published on July 26, 2021

A team of University of Iowa researchers, including two members from the College of Public Health, has been awarded a grant from the UI’s Jumpstarting Tomorrow initiative. The team aims to address health disparities and biases in artificial intelligence and machine learning tools.

Mary Charlton, associate professor of epidemiology in the College of Public Health, and Rima Afifi, professor of community and behavioral health in the College of Public Health, join team leader Guadalupe Canahuate, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering; Thomas Casavant, professor of biomedical engineering; and John Buatti, professor and chair of radiation oncology.

The grant will allow the researchers to identify and quantify current biases in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) healthcare models and to develop interventions to correct and reduce these biases.

“Because AI/ML models learn from historically collected data, human and structural biases present in the data can be perpetuated and even exacerbated as the models are applied to clinical care,” said Canahuate. 

Five University of Iowa research teams were awarded funds in round one of the Jumpstarting Tomorrow initiative. The new pilot grant and community-building program supports innovative and collaborative research teams. Each of the research teams received $150,000 to explore potential future strategic research investments by the university.