High tech help in fighting childhood obesity

High tech help in fighting childhood obesity


Because there’s not a lot of services
and programs out there for adolescents, we have in a niche to fill. And because UNM serves so many adolescents and we have so many in the community that are
at such high risk, for being overweight or for diabetes, we decided to do something
that we thought, you know, what would be effective but also fun? We know that
physical activity is dismally low, but use of TV and computers is just so high.
And so we thought, this is really a chance to make
technology part of the solution, instead of the problem. And there’s been so much
development and interest in fitness trackers and accelerometers that we
decided let’s do a little something with this. We picked three of what we thought was
the best, kind of, a different diversity of fitness trackers out on the market.
Because there’s not a fitness tracker developed that works exclusively with
adolescents, we wanted to see, can we use what’s even out there with this population. Is
there anything that really works with them? And what we found is that there is a
huge opportunity to develop something that is more geared towards this
adolescent age range. Obviously with me being able to partner
with UNM was very beneficial for me personally being able to give my kids
access to something like this. Just to even be introduced to it. They’ve seen them,
they’ve heard about them, but they’ve never really, parents aren’t out there
saying, “Hey I’m gonna get you an accelerometer.” What we’re finding is that a lot of
these fitness trackers now are using what’s called ‘gamification’, which means you
take just normal devices and you put gaming features onto the website to help,
you know, kind of get people more interested and motivated. So they
competed with each other within their group, but they also competed against
each other to kind of make more of like a fun challenge. So me and my brother both kinda did it, and me
and him kind of competed with each other which kinda like pushed us to be more active
and stuff. It was really cool and fun. And I also think it kind of pushed me to do
more things. Kinda encouraged me instead of just sitting at home
and watching TV or something like that. Just coordinating getting the device in their
hands and then educating them on how to use the device, and then educating them on
what to do to set up the account and how to set up the account, and then how to
understand the data and how then to come back and reflect. And so we that cohort leader
became a very integral part, which wasn’t originally, kind of, our thought
process. Our thought process was, man, you know there’s not a device out there
that’s really targeting teens. Seeing your steps and your progress just in and
of itself is not as motivating for an adolescent as it is for an adult. We need to
find ways to get personalized feedback where they like, “Whoa! This is
working!” or, “This is really happening!” And then I think we start to get
more of that intrinsic motivation. One of the goals is to take the feedback that
we’ve gathered, and to start formal communications with companies to
see if there’s any interest in actually moving this outside of just a research
sphere and really moving it to the populations that can really use it.
And how can we use technology as part of the solution, how can we incentivize them but
also increase intrinsic motivation. That’s the real key.

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