Electronic monitoring, texting effective in school-based weight interventions
BALTIMORE — The combined use of text messages and activity monitoring devices, such as a Fitbit, were effective in keeping at-risk teens engaged in school-based weight interventions, and resulted in an overall increase in physical activity, according to data presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting.
“We were able to find that teens actually enjoyed seeing their physical activity in real time, and that they also were excited about getting tailored messages as to their progress,” Raquel Hernandez, MD, MPH, FAAP, director of medical education at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, in St. Petersburg, Florida, said in an interview.
To test whether a school-based weight intervention using SMS texting and electronic monitoring devices was feasible, Hernandez and colleagues worked with a group of 18 ninth graders attending an urban high school over a 12-month period. Participants’ mean age was 14.2 years, with a mean BMI of 27.6 kg/m2.
Raquel Hernandez, MD, MPH
The study program, called “Teens Tracking for Health,” called for participants to wear Fitbit Flex monitors, and to receive behavior goals and feedback through text messages provided by Fitbase. The teens also received evidence-based nutrition, fitness and behavioral support.
According to the researchers, 72% of participants consistently used the Fitbit monitoring device. Weekly step averages increased from 8,004 to 9,124, and weight maintenance was observed from week 1 to week 36. Participants received multiple text messages related to the program weekly, including personalized fitness texts on target weeks. In addition, the researchers noted early correlations between personalized text messages and bursts of activity among the participants.
“So, that gave us a really good indication that this kind of model, working with teens on weight, might be a really good way of keeping them engaged and keeping them excited about healthy behaviors,” Hernandez concluded. – by Jason Laday
Disclosure: Hernandez reported that the study was funded by the Florida Blue Foundation. The researchers report no other relevant financial disclosures.
Hernandez R, et al. Teens Tracking 4 Health (TT4H): A school-based weight intervention utilizing real-time tracking technology. Presented at: Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting; April 30 to May 3, 2016; Baltimore.