Leveraging Big Data


The Wallace Center views patients as innovators in their own health journey. We utilize user-generated digital content from social media, online support groups, health tracking apps, and other platforms to inform family planning and reproductive health research.

Current projects include analyzing Reddit data to obtain timely and sensitive information about birth control and abortion and collaborating with the Clue app to study cycle characteristics of adolescents and symptoms of perimenopause in older users. 

Our Research

Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis of Social Networking Data

We are analyzing Reddit data to better understand timely topics in reproductive health including contraceptive use  and abortion access using a novel machine learning-enabled approach to analyzing user-generated big data. This method, developed by former postdoctoral fellow Dr. Christiana von Hippel, allows qualitative data analysis of digital communication platforms. 

Understanding r/abortion: A mixed-methods study of a Reddit-based community for abortion, explores community members’ use of an abortion subreddit in 2022. Using both Natural Language Processing and qualitative analysis, the study provides timely insights into the abortion experiences, concerns, needs, and outcomes of a variety of people, at a moment when the landscape of abortion access in the United States changed dramatically. Previous work using this technique has analyzed a subreddit on contraceptive use (r/birthcontrol) to better understand the needs and experiences of contraceptive users.

Infodemiology Research and Training

Wallace researchers, in collaboration with the Bixby Center for Population, Health & Sustainability, and the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department at UC Berkeley, are using Google search data as a novel source of information for understanding sexual and reproductive health needs. Through this work, researchers have assessed abortion and contraceptive information seeking behaviors and have developed a website quality assessment tool for reproductive health information. 

Quantitative analysis of health tracking apps

In partnership with mobile health apps, The Wallace Center is using big data to research reproductive and sexual health outcomes. Current projects include examining predictors of irregular menstrual cycling and patterns of symptoms of perimenopause in collaboration with Clue, a menstrual cycle tracking app. By leveraging existing data from large health tracking apps and launching user surveys, The Wallace Center is able to study diverse and hard-to-reach populations. Through these innovative study methods, we are also able to research understudied health outcomes such as menstruation and menopause.