Mobile Diabetes Management

Collaborators: York University, Black Creek Community Centre, Rogers Wireless, Research In Motion (RIM) and NexJ Systems Inc.

This project showcases how personal health coaching enabled by mobile technology can improve chronic disease management.

At least 171 million people suffer from diabetes worldwide according to the World Health Organization. In the United States during 2007, there were about 24 million people with diabetes, 5.7 million undiagnosed, and another 57 million at high risk with pre‐diabetes. The current population of diabetics costs the United States $132 billion every year, according to the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes is associated with cardiac disease and even cancer. Ironically, diabetes can be prevented or managed with very simple behavioural and lifestyle changes. Regular physical activity, regulated nutrition, and weight management are the treatments suggested by professional associations the Canadian Diabetes Association and the Public Health Agency of Canada. This makes diabetes an ideal testing ground for health coaching facilitated by mobile health.

NexJ Systems, York University, Rogers Wireless and Research In Motion collaborated on a pilot study to assess the benefits of mobile health solutions on wellness. Two groups of fifteen middle‐aged patients suffering from type 2 diabetes were recruited for the study and provided BlackBerry devices connected to NexJ’s mobile application and a personal health coach. The NexJ application provided participants with the ability to successfully execute their wellness plan and report on their mood, nutrition, and exercise. On opening the application, participants will be able to access their daily schedule and communicate with their health coach. The application allows them report their mood, level of exercise, and images of meals and information regarding their satisfaction level, portion size, meal source, and healthiness level of the meal. They can also view aggregate progress reports for a day or specific week in regard to mood, nutrition, and physical activity. The health coach was responsible for tracking and communicating wellness plans, including diet, medication uptake, and exercise.

The results from this initial study will serve as the basis for funding a larger multi‐cohort study of three hundred study participants over twelve months intended to follow the six month pilot study. Key goals were to identify a significant reduction in blood glucose levels compared to the beginning of the study. A reduction would indicate that health coaching facilitated by mobile health can induce behavioural change to improve health. Other direct measures of behavioural change would include adherence to, and changes in the frequency of, exercise, type of diet, and mood. Another key outcome would emerge from focus groups conducted mid‐way with both the patients and the health coach to assess functionality and usability. These outputs will help NexJ improve its coaching software to better serve patients.

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