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Consumer views on the potential use of mobile phones for the delivery of weight‐loss interventions

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Background:  The surge in the incidence of obesity and being overweight demands new options to extend the reach of weight‐loss interventions. Mobile phones provide a medium for reaching large numbers of people in a cost‐effective manner. The present study aimed to explore the potential for weight‐loss interventions to be delivered via mobile phone.

Methods:  A mixed methods approach was employed. A telephone survey was conducted with 306 randomly selected participants, and 10 focus groups were undertaken with 54 purposively selected participants. The telephone survey comprised questions exploring the nature and acceptability of any potential weight‐loss programme that might be delivered via mobile phones. The focus groups were conducted to explore issues of acceptability in more depth than was possible in the survey.

Results:  Two‐thirds of participants reported support for a mobile phone weight‐loss intervention, with greater levels of support amongst younger age groups and rural Māori (the indigenous population in New Zealand). Participants liked the idea of ready access to weight‐loss information, and associated feedback and encouragement. The results suggest that interventions would need to include aspects of social support, use tailored and personalised content, and be practical and relevant so that they appeal to consumers. Appropriate methods of providing social support using a mobile phone require further exploration.

Conclusions:  Mobile phones may provide a novel but acceptable way to deliver a weight‐loss intervention. They have the potential to be automatically personalised and tailored to the needs of the individual, at the same time as being delivered at a population level.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Clinical Trials Research Unit, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand 2: Centre for Child & Family Policy Research, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Publication date: 2011-12-01

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