Design of a Mobile App for Nutrition Education (TreC-LifeStyle) and Formative Evaluation With Families of Overweight Children.

Gabrielli (2017)
Summary by 

Nutrition and diet apps represent today a popular area of mobile health (mHealth), offering the possibility of delivering behavior change (BC) interventions for healthy eating and weight management in a scalable and cost-effective way. However, if commercial apps for pediatric weight management fail to retain users because of a lack of theoretical background and evidence-based content, mHealth apps that are more evidence-based are found less engaging and popular among consumers. Approaching the apps development process from a multidisciplinary and user-centered design (UCD) perspective is likely to help overcome these limitations, raising the chances for an easier adoption and integration of nutrition education apps within primary care interventions. The aim of this study was to describe the design and development of the TreC-LifeStyle nutrition education app and the results of a formative evaluation with families. The design of the nutrition education intervention was based on a multidisciplinary UCD approach, involving a team of BC experts, working with 2 nutritionists and 3 pediatricians from a primary care center. The app content was derived from evidence-based knowledge founded on the Food Pyramid and Mediterranean Diet guidelines used by pediatricians in primary care. A formative evaluation of the TreC-LifeStyle app involved 6 families of overweight children (aged 7-12 years) self-reporting daily food intake of children for 6 weeks and providing feedback on the user experience with the mHealth intervention. Analysis of the apps usage patterns during the intervention and of participants feedback informed the refinement of the app design and a tuning of the nutrition education strategies to improve user engagement and compliance with the intervention. Design sessions with the contribution of pediatricians and nutritionists helped define the nutrition education app and intervention, providing an effective human and virtual coaching approach to raise parents awareness about childrens eating behavior and lifestyle. The 6 families participating in the pilot study found the app usable and showed high compliance with the intervention over the 6 weeks, but analysis of their interaction and feedback showed the need for improving some of the app features related to the BC techniques "monitoring of the behavior" and "information provision." The UCD and formative evaluation of TreC-LifeStyle show that nutrition education apps are feasible and acceptable solutions to support health promotion interventions in primary care.