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iMedicalApps and JMIR Publications have partnered to help disseminate interesting & innovative digital health research being done worldwide. Each article in this series will feature summaries of interesting studies to help you keep up to date on the latest in digital health research. We invite you to share your thoughts on the study in the comments section.

1. What was the motivation behind your study?

The motivation of our study was to explore and characterize the individuals’ engagement with and use of new team-based mHealth application to promote healthy eating and exercise behaviors in individuals.

2. Describe your study.

In this study, we specifically aimed to study the effect of team-based use of the app on adherence and completion of health goals compared to that of solo use of the app. Grounded in social cognitive theory, we hypothesized that individuals receiving team-based intervention would show higher compliance with healthy behaviors promoted by the app. In addition, in order to control for the effect of the mode of delivery of the health behavioral intervention content, we studied participants who received the same intervention as the mobile app in the form of ePaper documents.

3. What were the results of the study?

Participants in the team-based mhealth intervention group showed greater engagement and compliance to the health behavior change goals for healthy eating and exercise. However, participants did not show any changes in behavioral outcomes such as eating behavioral patterns, and overall physical activity levels post-intervention as compared to pre-intervention. We believe this was due to the short 8-week duration of the health behavioral intervention that was studied in this initial feasibility study.

4. What is the main point that readers should take away from this study?

Participants in the team-based mhealth intervention group showed greater engagement and compliance to the health behavior change goals for healthy eating and exercise.

5. What was the most surprising finding from your study?

When we probed participants to compare the differences in compliance self-report between participants in the ePaper and mobile app conditions, we found that participants in the mobile app group indicated greater accuracy and confidence in self-reporting, along with self-reports in greater temporal proximity to actual health goal completion. It suggests that mobile diaries may prove to be a better tool for individuals to self-monitor and track their health behaviors more accurately over longer periods of time.

6. What are the next steps? How do you envision this work ultimately translating into clinical practice or affect R&D?

In the future, we believe that these findings from our early feasibility study may help drive clinical research in implementing scalable, group-based behavioral change interventions through smartphones to provide better peer support and promote better health outcomes in individuals with chronic health conditions.

This Q&A was contributed by Dr. Honglu Du, a researcher at the Palo Alto Research Center (a Xerox Company) who focused on the design and analysis of computer-mediated communication systems to support community building, and behavior change technologies for health and wellness.