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Wearable tech can help tackle obesity when supervised by health professionals

13/03/2017

Technology offers solutions to many health problems, but can the new generation of wearable sensors help patients manage their weight? Experience from the EU-funded DAPHNE project suggests that there are challenges and opportunities.

Professor Tim Lobstein, policy director at the World Obesity Federation and part of the DAPHNE project, says in an article in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) that the DAPHNE wearable and app helped several young people (12-17 years old) to lose a significant amount of body mass during a two-month experiment.

"In [our] study [...], adolescents attending a weight management clinic in an Italian hospital were asked to wear movement sensors and complete food diaries, and the results were made available to the young person and to their health professionals in the clinic."

"The young people who participated described the experience as empowering, giving them control over their own clinical treatment using digital systems they were familiar with. The feeling of self-empowerment is considered important in ensuring motivation for behaviour change, and indeed several of the children in the trial showed a significant decrease in body mass over the period."

Lobstein thinks especially the sharing of data with the health team worked: "Without such continuing supervision, the patient may be less motivated and the sophisticated technology largely ineffective. And if this is the case, then it may not be so important whether the doctor actually looks at the patient data between appointments, as long as the patient knows it could occur."

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