« Health promotion by new technologies: what works? »


As new technologies emerge there is optimism that some could be used effectively in health promotion. For example, a report by PricewaterhousCoopers outlines that the application of mHealth could save 99 billion in health care costs. A number of questions still remain however including how to best design and use the new technologies, and for whom should they be used. Brown and colleagues outline that using texts and social media can be cheap, tailored, and yield direct contacts. An interesting challenge for the future will be to assess when new methods are appropriate, to determine the conditions determining their effects, and how to best test these effects.

Brirlouez and colleagues describe a prevention worksite program for a Malaysian university. The intervention group received emails over a 10 week period with links to downloadable modules. Subsequently many of the participants were motivated to change. Hopefully this work will facilitate a further study aimed at applying new technologies to impact hard to reach unmotivated people. Schwinn and colleagues evaluated a web-based family-involvement health promotion program for adolescent girls, and included 67 mother-daughter dyads. Dyads participating in the program reported better mother-daughter communication, and other important outcomes. This innovative approach shows how family health promotion can profi t from new technologies. It will be interesting to see if this approach can be transferred to other health domains in other countries.

There is little doubt that new technologies have potential in the area of health promotion. Yet, what will be the most effective behavior change strategies needed to make them optimally effective? In relation to the use of websites, other sites are just one click away and dropout rates are high. T counter this, user and stakeholder involvement in required in the development of effective sites. Adding innovations – such as videos, blogs and gamifi cation are all promising – but the magic ‘involvement’ bullet using technology has not been found yet. While health is a priority for many people, it is an issue only considered now and then by many others. Despite the promise of new technology there remains a lot of work to do!

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