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ObesityWeek preconference workshop will explore the impact of mobile health on child obesity research

Sept. 2, 2013, NCCOR

This November The Obesity Society is hosting a preconference workshop called “Mobile Health (mHealth) Boot Camp for Pediatric Obesity.” The workshop will introduce participants to the basics of mHealth and its potential to inform research and practice in pediatric obesity. The workshop is part of ObesityWeek, a scientific and educational conference for obesity health care professionals that combines both The Obesity Society (TOS) and American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) annual meetings.

“Mobile health has so much potential for so many aspects of childhood obesity research,” said workshop co-organizer Erin Hennessey, a cancer prevention fellow at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and member of the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR). “There are more mobile devices in the world than toothbrushes, and even in the developing world – in places where people may not have consistent access to electricity or running water – people have access to mobile technology. So, the reach potential for mobile health is huge.”

The workshop will focus on how to use mHealth in pediatric obesity research. It will explore aspects like developing transdisciplinary teams; using sensor technologies to measure behaviors like activity, sleep, location, and social networks; making use of new and emerging research methodologies for collecting and analyzing large volumes of data (e.g., systems science); and developing flexible interventions that adapt to emerging behaviors and contexts in real time.

“From a measurement perspective, mobile technology allows for stealth data collection (e.g., through sensors, GPS) that requires almost zero participant burden and yields highly accurate data, ” said co-organizer Heather Patrick, health scientist at NCI and NCCOR member. “From an intervention perspective, engaging with people – parents, children and adolescents, educators, public health and medical practitioners – in the space where they already are has the potential to improve participant engagement and retention and the opportunity to develop adaptive interventions that address the needs of people operating at multiple levels within the childhood obesity landscape.”

The workshop is a collaboration between NCCOR, The Obesity Society’s Pediatric Section, and leading researcher in obesity prevention and treatment in minority youth: Dr. Donna Spruijt-Metz. Dr. Spruijt-Metz is an associate professor at Keck School of Medicine's Department of Preventive Medicine University of Southern California and chair-elect of The Obesity Society e-Health/mHealth section (EMS).

“Donna was starting to work on an EMS-supported workshop, and it turned out to be a great opportunity for the three groups to collaborate and capitalize on our respective strengths in some really exciting ways,” said Hennessey.

The workshop will also feature NCCOR tools and resources such as the Measures Registry and infographics. Participants will have an opportunity to discuss ways to enhance and expand NCCOR’s resources to be more mHealth-friendly and advance pediatric obesity research.

The workshop is designed for researchers, practitioners, and program evaluators at all career levels and disciplines who are interested in learning more about how to modernize their intervention, prevention, and evaluation skill sets.

“We hope that participants come away from the workshop with a newfound appreciation for how mHealth can be used to address the central disadvantages of current surveillance, prevention, and treatment approaches in pediatric obesity research,” said Hennessey.

“Mobile health is by no means a panacea that will solve all of the challenges we face in pediatric obesity research, so we also want participants to have a broader understanding of the issues mHealth can address and the limitations that mHealth may present,” added Patrick. “We want participants to develop a better understanding of the opportunities that mHealth presents, the kinds of ideas that are truly novel and innovative in mHealth, the current state of the evidence, and where additional evidence is needed.”

The preconference workshop will be held in Atlanta, Ga., on Nov. 12 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Though the conference is part of ObesityWeek, participants DO NOT have to register for the conference to attend the workshop.

To learn more about the preconference, visit http://www.obesity.org/about-us/ehealth-mhealth.htm. To register for the workshop, visit http://www.obesityweek.com. For questions, email education@obesity.org.