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Why public health should pay attention to the use of Health Apps?

 

Working in range of settings has given the insight into how people approach health care.  From research, practice, and strategy to policy making it has given me a great breadth of how applied sciences can work to help improve Public Health. It is fair to say that I get to see all the different viewpoints. Listening is such a big part in changing behaviours, it is through dialogue we share ideas and experience we have a real good chance at changing health outcomes. Therefore the conversation and idea of technology is not a new one to me. I think we are living in a different age to the one that my grandparents did. This of course will change again no doubt in the next 100 years. For me I think it's important that we pay to attention to the ‘trends’ or what we call behavioural science in the Psychology world.

Smartphones, the most common “personal computer” today, have changed the way we communicate today compared than just 15 years ago. Almost ‘always on’ and highly portable, smartphones provide real-time, on-demand communication. A smartphone can record a large number of details about its user’s current status and whereabouts. This can help both Psychologists and people in Public Health design health interventions based on real live data. However this is not always ethical in my view as some people might find this invading their privacy, so we should always approach with caution how we collect data.

I was delighted to host this unique event with Dr Curtis, who shares a joint role as a Research Fellow for Public Health Warwickshire and the Centre for Advances in Behavioural Science (CABS), Coventry University. At recent networking events Dr Curtis and I got talking about the application of apps and how there are so many out there which aim to change health behaviours such as weight management, diabetes, physical activity, medication adherence just to name a few. We came up with a proposal which would host experts who are involved in this type of work which is aiming to change the health of the public.

The great speakers who shared their work were

 

Dr Artur Direito, University of College London

Tittle Session: Combining the intervention mapping and behavioural intervention technology frameworks to develop a mHealth physical activity intervention

 

Em Rahman, NHS, Health Education England

Title Session: NoObesity and Family NoObesity. Two apps to support families to make

healthier choices.

 

Arjun Panesar & Charlotte Summers, Diabetes.co.uk

Title Session: Redefining Chronic Illness.

 

Liz Gore & Aaron Niblett, Hertsmere Borough Council

Title Session: The Path to ParksHerts

 

Dr Cindy Gray, Senior Lecturer in Health Behaviour Change, University of

Glasgow Title Session: Mobile Health: the potential and pitfalls of using smartphone apps to improve health behaviours

 

Dr Claire Garnett, University College London

Title Session: An evidence-based alcohol-reduction smartphone app: development and evaluation of Drink Less

 

Claire McCallum, University of Glasgow

Title Session: Evaluating effectiveness efficiently: the case of physical activity apps and Wearables

 

Dr Lis Boulton, School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Biology, Medicine and

Health, University of Manchester

Title Session: Motivating 60-70 year olds to be more active: The PreventIT Project

 

There were many interesting points that came out of the day for me of which 5 are listed below.

 

  1. Apps can be costly to develop (however I think this will change when new technology becomes available).
  2. Great to hear from speakers that they have their fingers on the pulse about the market and where it is going to go in the future.
  3. Experts on how creativity is important and to make apps unique for different populations.
  4. Tracking data with the use of Algorithms is key to understand baseline behaviour and change.
  5. Encouraging to see a Local Authority Public Health team supporting the use of technology to change health behaviours.

 

That is all from me now, I would encourage you to come up with your own conclusions by downloading the resources available on the website and listening to the talks.  Finally I would like to thank all the speakers for giving such a great insight, our wonderful delegates for sharing their thoughts, comments, questions and ideas. A huge thanks to Coventry University for allowing us to host their fantastic venue and last not but least Dr Curtis who I had a pleasure to work with.

 

Jolel Miah, Publicity & Liaison Chair of HPPHN

Email: jolel.miah@study.beds.ac.uk