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mHealth technologies in the management of obesity: a narrative review

Authors Allman-Farinelli M, Chen J

Received 20 February 2017

Accepted for publication 18 May 2017

Published 18 July 2017 Volume 2017:4 Pages 53—59


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Yelena Yesha

Margaret Allman-Farinelli, Juliana Chen

School of Life and Environmental Science, Charles Perkins Centre, The University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW, Australia

Abstract: The global pandemic of obesity requires an urgent response. Obesity results in increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. The need to provide cost-effective treatment to the millions affected is evident but traditional repeated individual face-to-face management would clearly exhaust available health care services. It is for this reason that the use of mobile health (mHealth) to improve population health, diet, and physical activity has become an active area of research. The aim of this review is to give a perspective of where this field of research currently stands using examples from the published literature. Smartphones provide a medium for the delivery of health information, personal coaching, monitoring of eating and physical activity behaviors and to integrate outputs from other sensors. Health and computer researchers have been developing and evaluating mHealth for the management of obesity but their efforts are relatively small. Text messaging, applications (apps) and a number of multicomponent mHealth programs utilizing a variety of Smartphone functions indicate some success in weight management but the results are mixed. Apart from the ubiquitous nature of Smartphones and devices, the real-time delivery of output data provides the potential for continuous adjustment of interventions according to the changes an individual is making after each message they receive from the mHealth program. This ability to optimize interventions for individual weight management in a timely fashion is the big challenge for researchers. Personalized heath advice is the preferred option of individuals, and cooperation between computer scientists, behavioral scientists, dietitians, exercise physiologists and medical practitioners will be needed to meaningfully integrate data and responses from automated systems. In summary, mHealth shows potential, but we are still in the early stages of being able to harness its full capabilities for making a meaningful contribution to combatting obesity.

Keywords: mHealth, text messages, apps, obesity, diet, physical activity

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