Global obesity epidemic is addressed with increasing efforts where mobile health ("mHealth") technology and wearable device have developed as a hopeful tool for promoting physical activity. But, the current study suggests that these new technologies may work best as part of an overall health plan, rather than working solely to help weight loss. The findings of the study are published in the journal Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity.
In a review, Nicole Spartano, Ph.D., research assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, comments that recent literature shows that self-monitoring behavior has a role in encouraging weight loss, but may not be enough to keep people healthy when used without thought to behavioral strategies.
‘Combination of mobile Health technology and wearable devices gives an opportunity to promote better health instead of focusing only on the weight loss.’
"There is not sufficient evidence that wearable devices can promote sustained behavior change and long-term weight maintenance on their own." She cites one study in which a game-based intervention produced significant improvement in step counts compared to a group of individuals using a fitness tracker without an incentive program, concluding that "using social or financial incentives and techniques like gamification may support motivation of behavior change."
Spartano also has a concern about groups being left behind with wearable device and mobile health technology-based weight loss studies.
"Strategies for research study recruitment and, more importantly, for implementing wearable and mHealth technology into a clinical setting or community public health program (in schools, workplace, church or other community-setting) require extra thought and cultural sensitivity to ensure the equity in potential public resources and opportunities."
Ultimately, she is optimistic about the role these technologies may play in developing weight loss and overall health strategies between patients and their primary care providers.
"Integration of mHealth technology and wearable devices in primary care settings presents an opportunity to capitalize on the routine relationship that patients and providers have."