My PhD: Designing an evidence-based app to improve parental food provision to young children, Chelsea Mauch

Chelsea Mauch, BNutDiet, BSc(Hons), APD, 2nd year PhD candidate

Dietary intake in young Australian children is sub-optimal, with national data showing that almost a third of the daily energy intake of 2-3 year olds is from discretionary foods (ABS, 2014). Early intervention may have a greater impact on future dietary intake and the risk of obesity. However, early intervention research thus far has faced key challenges impacting upon study reach, engagement and intervention adoption. Mobile technology offers an innovative way of delivering nutrition interventions. The almost universal use of mobile technology in Australia means that mobile health applications have the potential to address barriers concerning reach and engagement, whilst also showing promise with regards to intervention dose, interactivity and delivery setting. Despite a rapid increase in the number of nutrition and lifestyle apps available on the commercial market in recent years, few are developed according to an evidence-based design process or utilising behaviour change theory, and the majority target weight management and diet monitoring. The full potential of mobile apps in the area of nutrition promotion and improvement in families is yet to be realized, and quality interventions are only starting to emerge. The aim of this PhD project is to design (utilizing the Behaviour Change Wheel process for intervention design, Michie et al, 2014) an evidence-based early obesity prevention app addressing the parental provision of food to young children by:

  1. Conducting a systematic assessment of the scope, content, functionality and use of Behaviour Change Techniques in existing commercially available apps addressing parental provision to young children
  2. Determining and prioritizing behavioural support strategies through an investigation of the mechanisms by which sociodemographic characteristics influence child dietary intake
  3. Following a user-centered design process to design and test an app concept based on Behaviour Change theory
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