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NCCOR-sponsored mobile health boot camp helps generate innovative ways to combat childhood obesity

Dec. 4, 2013, NCCOR

Watches that track children’s physical activity and mobile applications that monitor a kid’s diet are just a few of the ideas for innovative, obesity-prevention technologies generated from a workshop co-sponsored by the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) on mobile health and pediatric obesity.

The pre-conference workshop, a collaboration between NCCOR and The Obesity Society (TOS), was held in November at ObesityWeek, a conference that combines both TOS and the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery annual meetings. The workshop was designed to orient the research and practice communities to mobile health (mHealth) technology and research and discussed how to incorporate mHealth technology into their work to achieve greater reach and enhance the treatment and prevention of obesity. Nearly 100 early-career childhood obesity researchers, program evaluators, and medical professionals participated in the event.

Throughout the day participants heard from experts within the field who discussed mHealth methodologies, novel approaches on analyzing data, and how mHealth technologies can enhance the effectiveness and reach of obesity interventions.

Participants also split into small groups and designed an intervention to address obesity in schools through a social ecological perspective, allowing groups to choose their approach. For instance, some groups chose students as the primary change agent, creating programs directed at increasing their physical activity and improving diets. Others focused primarily on system and policy change, aiming interventions at the schools and school districts.

Following each presentation, groups were allotted 45 minutes to work on developing their interventions while incorporating the new information and scenarios presented. The final discussion, led by NCCOR member Dr. Heather Patrick, introduced NCCOR tools and resources, including the Measures Registry, Catalogue of Surveillance Systems and the HEI infographic series. Patrick challenged the groups to choose one of these resources to incorporate into their interventions by: presenting ways in which these resources could be improved to be more mHealth friendly; identifying new resources NCCOR should consider including on their website; or proposing new resources NCCOR should consider developing that could enhance their intervention or current work within the field.

At the conclusion of the workshop, each group presented their interventions, talking specifically about the innovative technology they developed and NCCOR resources. Many creative ideas were presented, including using mobile games and sensors to track children’s physical activity and diet. From participants’ reactions to the NCCOR resources, Patrick and other NCCOR members gathered useful feedback on usability and ideas for new resources to consider developing.

Overall, participants spoke enthusiastically about the workshop, expressing their eagerness to take these resources and new techniques back to their current work within the field. The innovative ways in which the groups incorporated mHealth technology into their interventions provoked great discussion. Specifically, participants spoke about interest in approaching potential funders with these ideas, and looking for new, unique, transdisciplinary collaborations to create effective, evidence based interventions utilizing mHealth technology to have greater reach.

Both NCCOR and TOS were extremely satisfied with the result of the workshop. The experience provided a great example of a unique partnership between NCCOR and an annual conference creating a tailored educational experience for conference attendees.