History of IWHRC

The idea of the Internet World Health Research Center was triggered by work done by the UCSF/SFGH Latino Mental Health Research Program to test whether randomized controlled trials could be conducted via the Web. Our proof-of-concept studies were the UCSF/UCSD Stop smoking Internet clinical trials, conducted in Spanish and English, funded by the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (Grants # 7RT-0057, 10RT-0326, 13RT-0050, and 24RT-0027).

These studies showed that we can match the success of the nicotine patch using a Web-based stop smoking program. The patch yields quit rates from 14% to 22% in randomized controlled trials. Our online interventions have yielded quit rates as high as 26% at six months, and 20% and 21% quit rates at 12 months, using the conservative missing = smoking convention, which assumes any participant with missing data is smoking.

In addition, with the help of a Google AdWords grant, we have been able to show that people throughout the world are interested in using online health interventions.

  • 1,870,368 persons have visited our websites from 233 countries and territories from 2003 through 2018.

It occurred to us that if we could conduct research to help such a large number of individuals across the globe to stop smoking, we could repeat this process for other health problems.

2003: A planning grant

  • The Director of the Latino Mental Health Research Program (Muñoz) and a small group of colleagues were granted a planning grant to study the feasibility of creating an Internet Health Research Center by the UCSF School of Medicine Research and Evaluation Allocation Committee in 2003.
  • The principal investigator of the grant was Ricardo F. Muñoz, joined by Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, Kevin Delucchi, and Connie Weisner. Carlos Penilla, Staff Research Associate for the Latino Mental Health Research Program, and John Perez, Postdoctoral Fellow, were also part of the team. Elizabeth Miller and Armando Valdez joined us as consultants.

2004: A multiple users grant

  • Based on our deliberations, the team decided that to create such a center, we need a unifying resource that would bring like-minded investigators together and provide them with tools to carry out Internet research.
  • A multiple users grant was awarded from the School of Medicine Research and Evaluation Allocation Committee to purchase a software system, DatStat Illume, that was specifically made for conducting clinical research via the Web, without having to be a web developer.
  • Ricardo F. Muñoz was the Principal Investigator, joined by Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, Kevin Delucchi, Neal Benowitz, Ginger Carrieri-Kohlman, Gary Humfleet, Mort Lieberman, Charlie Marmar, David Mohr, Janice Tsoh, and Connie Weisner. Other members of the team included Carlos Penilla, John Perez, and Larry Van Cantfort (Assistant Director for Web Services, School of Medicine Dean's Information Services Unit).
  • The UCSF/SFGH IWHRC Executive Committee is formed to administer the center, an executive committee was formed composed of: Ricardo F. Muñoz, Chair, Mort Lieberman, David Mohr, Janice Tsoh, and Carlos Penilla.

Throughout the years, many of the original researchers have continued their work on online interventions at UCSF and other universities.

Dr. Ricardo F. Muñoz is the Founding Director of the Institute for International Internet Interventions for Health (i4Health) at Palo Alto University, and continues his work at UCSF's IWHRC in his role as Professor of Psychology Emeritus in the Department of Psychiatry at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

Dr. Alinne Barrera is Associate Professor at Palo Alto University and Associate Director of i4Health. She is developing a new version of the online Mothers and Babies Course/El Curso Mamás y Bebés.

Dr. Yan Leykin is Associate Professor at Palo Alto University. He has continued several projects, including the international Mood Screener project, and two mood management projects, MINT and BetterBet.

Dr. Adrian Aguilera is now Associate Professor at UC Berkeley's School of Social Welfare and has a joint appointment in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, based at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. He is continuing his work on developing and evaluating a text-messaging adjunct to in-person cognitive-behavioral therapy groups for primary care patients at the hospital in Spanish and English.

Dr. David C. Mohr is now the director of the Center for Behavioral Interventions Technologies at Northwestern University.

Dr. Stephen Schueller is now Assistant Professor of Psychological Science at the University of California at Irvine, and is the Executive Director of PsyberGuide, an online mental health app guide.