Devoting Oneself to the Einstein Program - Assistant Professor Yu-Hsiu Lin from the Department of Information Management Investigates the Occurrence of Dementia among 921 Earthquake Survivors with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

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As her hometown happens to be one of the 921 Earthquake disaster zones, Assistant Professor Yu-Hsiu Lin from Chung Cheng University's (CCU) Department of Information Management has proposed a follow-up on the earthquake survivors with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in addition to investigating the correlation between social vulnerability and dementia while integrating medical big data and artificial intelligence development in her research. Recently, she received a grant from the Ministry of Science and Technology's (MoST) Einstein Program and will conduct a three-year research project with the hope of developing a risk prediction model that can serve to inform national policies.

 
Dr. Lin says, "In Taiwan, the prevalence of dementia is very high, with a person being diagnosed with dementia every 40 minutes." There are many factors that lead to dementia. In recent years, some scholars have studied the correlation between PTSD and dementia. As her hometown, Shigang district in Taichung City, was a major disaster zone during the earthquake, Yu-Hsiu Lin proposed a research study titled "921 Earthquake Survivors with PTSD, Social Vulnerability in the Disaster Zones, and Dementia: From a Longitudinal Follow-Up Study to the Application of a Machine Learning Model." The research has also integrated the artificial intelligence and long-term care policies backed by the government, and has received a total grant of NT4.8 million from this year's MoST Einstein Program, a program with a nationwide grant approval rate of only 20%.
 
Dr. Lin says, "Based on the experiences of foreign researchers, it takes approximately 8 to 10 years, or even longer, for PTSD sufferers to develop dementia." The 921 earthquake that occurred 20 years ago has resulted in tremendous changes in the survivors' well-being. At that time, the prevalence of PTSD had jumped from 7.6% to 32%. Frontotemporal lobar degeneration is a form of dementia which is mainly caused by external injury to the head. Dr. Lin indicated that some survivors had suffered head injuries during the quake. Therefore, the possibility of these injuries leading to the development subsequent diseases is an important issue worth exploring.
 
At present, this research is in its preliminary phase. The research distinguishes itself from local studies that only focused on individual-based factors, as Yu-Hsiu Lin has not only applied the methodologies of general statistics, spatial analysis, and artificial intelligence machine learning, but has also considered the regional-based aspect of social vulnerability. Yu-Hsiu Lin says, "Social vulnerability reflects a region's tolerance to natural disasters, as well as the time taken to recover from the aftermath." Hence, the different vulnerability levels of an environment, economy, or society will have different degrees of impact on the residents' responses and adaptability to a disaster. A risk prediction model is expected to be developed towards the end of this research. The model can not only serve as a reference for formulating dementia-relevant policies and care measures, but can also be applied to preventive measures in public health and epidemiology.
 
Equipped with a nursing background, it was only in August last year when Yu-Hsiu Lin joined CCU's Department of Information Management. While pursuing her studies, she realized that it is necessary to apply management measures to enhance Taiwan's nursing conditions. She then turned to the field of healthcare management and, after obtaining a doctoral degree in health policy and management, decided to remain in academia due to her interest in research. As medical big data has become a topic of broad and current interest, Yu-Hsiu Lin has applied her experience in analyzing large medical-relevant databases to her research on dementia since arriving at CCU.
 
It is expected that the achievements of this research can help the government to allocate different resources to regions with higher social vulnerability before a disaster strikes, so as to enhance the residents' capabilities to recover, decrease damage, reduce PTSD incidence, and reduce the subsequent possibility of developing dementia.