The promise of mobile technologies in facilitating health-behavior change (mHealth), particularly in substance use disorders, has been largely unrealized. Siloed development, absence of a shared vocabulary and a dearth of crossdisciplinary interactions are some of the challenges that perpetuate the divide between mHealth technologists and behaviorists and fuel serious concerns about the clinical uptake or eventual public health impact of mHealth approaches. To address these concerns, we will develop and implement a mHealth Training Institute (mHTI) that will provide participants with a core educational grounding in mHealth perspectives and methodologies and help inculcate the intrapersonal and interpersonal skills and attitudes necessary for transdisciplinary collaborations. Held annually at the University of California-Los Angele, the mHTI will combine a week-long, immersion program for the 35 participants selected each year with ongoing mentoring and facilitated collaborations to provide a continuum of activ learning and collaborative experiences. Distinctive elements of the mHTI will include (a) problem-based, team-science projects that build on the didactic core and allow trainees from disparate disciplines to apply their expertise jointly to a specific behavioral health problem; (b multi-mentoring of each team by experienced mentors grounded in different disciplines; (c) real- world input from industry experts on mHealth product development lifecycles; and (d) a virtual collaborative platform to sustain synergistic interactions and research networks between mHTI graduates and help them develop transdisciplinary mHealth solutions. Anchored by a theoretical framework, we will evaluate the effectiveness of the mHTI in fostering a transdisciplinary ethic and skills through the following questions: a) Does recognition (of the value of transdisciplinary collaboration) increase among institute participants? (b) Does self- efficacy (i.e., confidence to engage in transdisciplinary collaboration) increase among institute participants? (c) Does actualization (i.e., engagement in transdisciplinary collaboration) increase among institute participants? Furthermore, to what extent are changes in actualization moderated by the research infrastructure and support of participants' home institutions? The proposed mHTI will derive from the synergic efforts of a core group of academic, industry and NIH thought leaders with mHealth training priors and a deep commitment to educating the next generation of transdisciplinary mHealth researchers. Building on the experiences of precursor mHealth training institutes, the mHTI will capitalize on UCLA's mature physical infrastructure, articulate institutional backing, as well as established logistical support systems for scientific meetings and conferences. By priming the mHealth innovation pipeline with a cadre of self-actualizing, integrative scientists with transdisciplinary competencies and mindsets, the mHTI's will ensure that the field of behavioral health disorders is better positioned to realize the transformative potential of mHealth.
To meet the need for transdisciplinary scientists capable of meaningfully merging innovations in mobile technologies with behavioral interventions, the UCLA-based mHealth Training Institute will provide an integrated training experience that combines a core curriculum in mHealth fundamentals with team science projects, mentoring, and a virtual platform for nurturing cross-fertilization and research collaborations between technologists and behavioral scientists.