Long-term, in-person treatment with a professional is currently the only proven way to lose weight through diet and exercise plans. Most intensive weight loss interventions - including the clinically proven Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) - require participants to self-monitor their eating and exercise on paper.
Researchers from the Northwestern University School of Preventative Medicine, in collaboration with a team of interaction designers from the Institute of Design, are conducting a study to find out how new technologies can help. The study features a smartphone app which gives immediate, visual feedback on activity and dietary habits, and enables social support to help study participants maintain adherence to the DPP. The design's effectiveness will be tested in a controlled study with 64 participants starting in Fall 2010.
Five years ago, NWU research showed that using a Palm Treo, along with an accelerometer, to record diet and exercise increased the efficacy of the DPP. In 2009, they started this study to test a way to reduce the amount of doctor time needed to achieve the same effect.
Instead of relying on a professional's ethos and charisma to motivate users to make healthy decisions, an Android app will make users into experts by giving them the information they need at the right time and place.
See the NWU Study website for the latest updates.
Listening to users made it clear that the kind of person who doesn't already play a sport is unlikely to have a competitive edge - instead, they are inspired by their family and their community.
This shows the progression in our thinking from knowing we needed to show how many calories were consumed, towards finding the right visual metaphor to capture both the amount consumed and the amount left, with a stretch goal of giving a negative affect if the user goes over the target.
This was an interesting area of the product because the clinical team wanted to control against some users being more active in posting compared to others. So we used a posting board metaphor, where each user gets a space, rather than a feed, where the most recent posts are shown.