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Technology, Social Media and Behavior Change

Technology, Social Media and Behavior Change

Klein Buendel (KB) Senior Scientist, Dr. Valerie Myers, was an invited presenter at The Colorado Cancer Coalition Annual Symposium held November 8-9, 2018 in Lakewood, Colorado. The mission of the Coalition is to eliminate the burden of cancer in Colorado. This year’s symposium, Elevating Personalized Cancer Care in Colorado, shared updates on innovative cancer care in Colorado and provided education and networking opportunities for professionals who work in cancer prevention, control, treatment, and survivorship.

Dr. Myers spoke about Technology, Social Media and Behavior Change in a session on Using Technology and Social Media to Advance Your Mission. She addressed multiple types of mHealth and eHealth technologies and the research behind their use in implementing health behavior change programs. Using her active research project Caminemos Juntas as an example, she was able to showcase how a smartphone app like Caminemos Juntas can be used to help Latina women overcome barriers to physical activity.

Dr. Myers said, “The benefit of technologies and digital health tools is that they have the capacity to be used in the real world with real people. That is their appeal.” She also stressed the importance of the use of digital technologies saying, “People who normally wouldn’t have access to empirically based and theory driven interventions now have access to them, so it really promotes the ability for scale up. I think this is where individual clinical trial-based health and public health come together really well, because you can translate what’s been done in rigorous trials and get it to the people to see if you can move the needle on these health behaviors.”

In addition to its importance, Dr. Myers said that digital health technologies such as mHealth and eHealth are “the way to get interventions in the hands of people that may never have been exposed to this messaging. If it can reach those individuals who have been neglected traditionally by health intervention and also meet people in a place where they feel comfortable and safe and are ready for change, then that excites me.”

KB scientists and staff have been active members of the Colorado Cancer Coalition and its Skin Cancer Task Force for over a decade.

¡Caminemos Juntas!: A Smartphone App for Latinas to Connect with Walking Partners

¡Caminemos Juntas!: A Smartphone App for Latinas to Connect with Walking Partners

Dr. Valerie Myers, Klein Buendel (KB) Senior Scientist, is the Principal Investigator leading a new research project aimed at helping Latinas combat barriers to physical activity using smartphone technology and social networks.

Hispanic women are a growing and influential segment of the population, yet health disparities for Latinas remain high. Latinas are more likely than their non-Hispanic White counterparts to be overweight, diagnosed with diabetes, and physically inactive. Regular physical activity promotes physical and emotional well-being, such as lower risk of heart disease and diabetes, weight management, and improved quality of life, yet physical activity interventions for Latinas remain limited.

Community-focused walking interventions produce improvements in physical activity and are well-received by Latinas when they are socioculturally sensitive. New technology has the ability to provide Latinas with innovative ways to connect socially and increase PA. Location-based services (LBS) are a popular technology that uses geographical positioning to allow individuals to use their smartphones to connect to their surrounding environment.

¡Caminemos Juntas! is a physical activity walking app that uses location-based services to connect Latinas within nearby neighborhoods as a way to provide social support for increased walking behavior. A prototype of the ¡Caminemos Juntas! app was programmed for both iOS and Android smartphones in a previous Phase I project. Multi-method formative research was conducted to guide app design and content prior to conducting field usability testing. To guide prototype development, a national sample of Latinas (n=98; mean age 32.7 +/- 7.8 years; 45% primary Spanish speaking; 28.6% with annual income < $15,000) were surveyed to better understand their preferences, usage, needs, and obstacles of current apps in relation to health and physical activity. Latinas’ current physical activity behaviors and smartphone use, opinions on health-related apps using LBS, how often they access social networking sites on their mobile phone, and their likelihood of using a social networking app to connect to others with intentions to be physically active were also examined.

Phase I results revealed that 22.5% never or rarely exercised, 73.5% accessed social networking sites daily with an average of 8 times a day, and 43.9% used LBS every day. Ease of use (82%), informationally accurate (79.2%), and reliability (84.7%) were app features rated as highly important. Over 63% reported high likelihood of using a social networking app to connect to others with the intentions of being physically active, and 67.4% reported that this type of app would be very helpful. Focus groups showed that the app was appealing, also.

In the new Phase II project, the ¡Caminemos Juntas! app will be fully developed and evaluated in a randomized control trial with Latinas aged 18-45 in San Jose, CA and Denver, CO. Changes in physical activity, social support for exercise, and quality of life will be evaluated. New features to be explored include Fitbit® device integration, mapping of walks, and social media integration. The LBS features of the app will allow Latinas to determine a safe place to meet for a walk, connect with other users nearby, and be notified if there was an available walk in the user’s vicinity.

The research is funded by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (MD009652) at the National Institutes of Health through the Small Business Innovation Research Program. Dr. Myers’ collaborators include Dr. Abby King from Stanford University, and Dr. Gary Cutter from Pythagorus, Inc. in Alabama.

B-SMART Study Launches at KB

B-SMART Study Launches at KB

Klein Buendel (KB) Senior Scientist, Dr. Gill Woodall, is the Principal Investigator leading a new research project aimed at reducing intoxicated driving by people with court-ordered ignition interlock devices (IIDs) through improved communication and support from family members.

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) remains a substantial and preventable source of morbidity and mortality in the U.S. The IID, which requires a driver to blow into a breathalyzer unit installed in an automobile to establish sobriety, reduces drunk driving while installed. However, research has shown that once IIDs are removed from DWI offenders’ cars, DWI recidivism levels return to those comparable to offenders who did not have an IID installed.

This new project will fully develop and evaluate B-SMART — smartphone technology to teach coping skills, communication skills, and strategies to help deter DWI. Unique to this intervention are the involvement of family members in supporting the DWI offender to not drink and drive, English and Spanish language options, and the use of smartphone technology to make that support immediate, accessible, and diffusible. The core content of the intervention is based on empirically-validated couples therapy curriculum developed by Dr. Barbara McCrady from the University of New Mexico. It will be adapted for concerned DWI offender family members and delivered through a convenient smartphone web app platform. Programming and usability testing will be done by KB designers and developers.

Results of a Phase I feasibility study of an initial module of B-SMART presented at the Research Society on Alcoholism by Dr. Woodall in 2016, showed very positive reactions by users. Thirty-two concerned family members of DWI offenders browsed the communication skills module of B-SMART and then rated the module on the System Usability Scale (SUS – Bangor, et al., 2011). Results indicated an average SUS rating of 44.2 (sd=4.78, scale range: 10-50), with 87% of participants rating the B-SMART module 40 or above. These results indicate that users found the prototype B-SMART module easy to use, informative, and very positive.

For the new Phase II evaluation, a randomized efficacy trial will be conducted with DWI offenders and their concerned family members recruited through the New Mexico court system. The research is funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (R44AA022850) through the Small Business Innovation Research Program. Dr. Woodall’s scientific collaborators include Ms. Julia Berteletti from KB, Dr. Barbara McCrady and Dr. Vern Westerberg from the University of New Mexico, and Dr. Gary Cutter from Pythagorus, Inc. in Alabama.