COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Mobile applications for weight management: theory-based content analysis

Kristen M J Azar, Lenard I Lesser, Brian Y Laing, Janna Stephens, Magi S Aurora, Lora E Burke, Latha P Palaniappan
American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2013, 45 (5): 583-9
24139771

BACKGROUND: The use of smartphone applications (apps) to assist with weight management is increasingly prevalent, but the quality of these apps is not well characterized.

PURPOSE: The goal of the study was to evaluate diet/nutrition and anthropometric tracking apps based on incorporation of features consistent with theories of behavior change.

METHODS: A comparative, descriptive assessment was conducted of the top-rated free apps in the Health and Fitness category available in the iTunes App Store. Health and Fitness apps (N=200) were evaluated using predetermined inclusion/exclusion criteria and categorized based on commonality in functionality, features, and developer description. Four researchers then evaluated the two most popular apps in each category using two instruments: one based on traditional behavioral theory (score range: 0-100) and the other on the Fogg Behavioral Model (score range: 0-6). Data collection and analysis occurred in November 2012.

RESULTS: Eligible apps (n=23) were divided into five categories: (1) diet tracking; (2) healthy cooking; (3) weight/anthropometric tracking; (4) grocery decision making; and (5) restaurant decision making. The mean behavioral theory score was 8.1 (SD=4.2); the mean persuasive technology score was 1.9 (SD=1.7). The top-rated app on both scales was Lose It! by Fitnow Inc.

CONCLUSIONS: All apps received low overall scores for inclusion of behavioral theory-based strategies.

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