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Leave Me Alone!

29 Nov

Lots of people resonate with the idea of involving other people in behavior change efforts. But not everyone does. And they have some pretty good reasons.

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The Eatery: Crowdsourcing Evaluation of Food Diaries

3 Nov

Previously, I suggested that other people can be a good source of feedback, among other things, to support self-regulation. Right on queue, two days ago The Eatery was released, the first iPhone app from MassiveHealth. The two biggest differences from other food logging applications out there are:

  1. You just take a photo of what you are about to eat; you don’t try to semantically tag it in a way that allows for calorie counting or ingredient analysis.
  2. Other people rate what you eat on a 10-point fit-or-fat scale. Continue reading

Where are the Recommender Systems in Tailored Health Messaging?

1 Nov

In areas like smoking cessation and cancer screening,  where the goal is to educate and get people to take the first steps toward behavior change, “tailored messaging” was developed in the 1990s to try to improve on the effectiveness of one-size-fits-all brochures that are often distributed in clinics. So far, however, the techniques of recommender systems (also called collaborative filtering) that I helped to develop, also starting in the  early 1990s (recipient of ACM Software Systems Award last year) , don’t seem to have been applied in tailored health messaging. In this post, I’ll explore what has been tried in tailored health messaging, and where the opportunities might be to incorporate the recommender system techniques that are now ubiquitous in commerce and other applications on the Internet. Continue reading

Roles for Other People in Self-Regulation

24 Oct

Self-regulation theories describe how people regulate the setting and pursuit of goals. In the realm of health behavior change, it is a useful lens for understanding what happens after someone is motivated, say, to lose weight. How can they structure a program that will actually lead to weight loss? This post examines the key elements of the theory and then considers how other people can enhance self-regulation processes. Continue reading

Self-Determination Theory and Its Implications

10 Oct

The Self-Determination Theory of Deci and Ryan [1, 2] posits three basic psychological needs—autonomy, competence, and relatedness—and claims that behavior change interventions that meet those needs will be more effective than those that thwart them.  In this post, I’ll review the theory and some possible misinterpretations of it, and discuss potential implications for social approaches to behavior change.

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28 Hours of RxPact, a Social Reminders App for Medication Adherence

30 Sep

I showed up a couple days early for the Health 2.0 Code-a-thon last weekend and went to the code-a-thon, where we were supposed to go from idea to team formation to development to demo in 28 hours, competing for $13K in prize money.

My team, composed of people who previously knew each other little or not at all, made an app with social reminders and social rewards for remembering to take your medications on time. We won the $3K Novartis prizeContinue reading

More Interesting Projects from Health 2.0

30 Sep

In the Behavior Change Category

Mobile adventure walks is an iphone app in beta. Someone authors a “walk”, which is like a tour with waypoints. You follow the yellow brick road on a map on your phone, using GPS. At each waypoint, there’s a multiple choice question that you can answer by looking around– forces you to actually go there, and to notice interesting things about your surroundings. Informally, they have already found that people who author tours then want to get their friends and family to take them, which gets them walking. It seems like a nice little tool to make taking walks a little more fun, for the crowd who aren’t yet “exercisers”. They’ve tried it in suburbs, with positive response, so you don’t need to have sites of great public interest at the waypoints for it to be fun. A related idea is scvngr, which has challenges that you can only do at specific locations, so you move around in order to get to the places where you can do them.

Keith Hutchings told me about his work on (nee It was a platform for making microchallenges to your friends (I’ll do five pushups if you’ll dance to two songs), sort of a fitness version of the community-service oriented It appears to be down now, but perhaps I can analyze some of their old log data. Their founder Jen McCabe has now moved on to co-found HabitLabs, which has a new app, in the works, which I might profile later.

HealthPer is another gamification of health site (games, points, rewards, challenges and competitions).

In the Judgment/Decision Making Category

CareCoach is an iPhone and Android app that helps you prepare for a doctor’s visit collaboratively with family members (preparing a list of questions to ask), and then takes an audio recording of the visit and lets you share it with friends. It also lets you listen in advance to recordings of strangers’ exam room visits, so that you can be better prepared for what to expect, and therefore process your own visit better. It sounds very promising.

In the Social Support Category

glu is a community for type 1 diabetes patients and their families, in closed beta right now. You identify yourself with a attributes and it tries to match you with similar others, if I recall correctly from the presentation a few days ago now.

Seen at Health 2.0: Health Applications With a Social Element

27 Sep

At the Health 2.0 Conference, I’ve been scouting for companies and apps that are using social elements to promote health and wellness. Here’s what I’ve found so far, on stage, in the exp, and from random conversations.

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Stay Hydrated, My Friend

16 Sep

In a paper at the 2009 Ubicomp conference, Hao-Hua Chu and his students and colleagues presented results of a trial of a system that encourages people to drink more water. They built a tracker that sensed water consumption from a special bottle.

Some subjects got an individual feedback app. When they drank enough, their tree avatar was healthy; when they didn’t, it lost its leaves.

Five subjects got a version with two social features:

  1. They could see small representations of the other four users’ tree avatars
  2. They could send reminders to other users (in the form of heart icons, suggesting “I care about you, so drink!”)

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Social Game Helps Elders Take Pills On Time

15 Sep

Researchers Rodrigo de Oliveira, Mauro Cherubini,  and Nuria Oliver, at Telefonica, in Spain, developed a mobile phone app that tries to make it more engaging to try to take your medications on time. They tested it with 18 elders. It worked!

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