Smartphone apps for weight control?: How to choose

August 4, 2020

Smartphone applications addressing weight reduction have increased along with smartphone app use among pediatric patients. What's the best way to choose one?

Smartphone applications that address weight reduction have increased along with smartphone app use among pediatric patients. This led a team of pediatric practitioners to develop an evaluation tool (called Ped-WHAT) and rating system for these apps (16 currently are available), with the goal of giving health care providers a tool for assisting patients and their families in selecting apps that meet their needs and are based on scientific evidence. The Ped-WHAT tool evaluates apps based on whether they address 8 evidence-based behavior modification strategies that target weight management (such as self-monitoring, goal setting, and physical activity support) and 10 behavior strategies outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics (such as eating 5 fruits and vegetables each day and getting 1 hour of daily physical activity). The team also developed a 5-star rating system to simplify interpretation of the evaluation criteria.

In addition, the team tested an educational in-service training session for practitioners, finding it significantly improved provider knowledge and confidence about using Ped-WHAT (Al-Lami N, et al. J Pediatr Health Care. 2020. Epub ahead of print).

Thoughts from Dr Farber

Apps for weight loss are promising, but so far strong evidence that any of them are effective is lacking. This article does not evaluate apps per se, but does give the interested provider guidance in deciding whether a given app might be worth suggesting to a family.

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