Experiences and engagement of users of the ‘Fresh Start’ weight management app during the Covid-19 pandemic
Keywords:Obesity, Weight management, Apps, Experiences, Covid-19, Fresh Start, Behaviour Change
Background: The use of smartphone apps as a weight management intervention has continued to expand over recent years. The Covid-19 pandemic presented unique challenges to weight management services that accelerated the development of one such app ‘Fresh Start’. Limited research explores the experiences of participants using a single, new app over a standard twelve-week weight management program. This study captured those experiences as well as gaining an insight into how the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the health and wellbeing of app users.
Methods: Semi structured interviews were carried out with eight Fresh Start users. Initial interviews were carried out during April 2021, when they began using the app, and again twelve weeks later in July 2021. All interviews were carried out remotely over video-call. They were recorded, stored, and transcribed verbatim into the NVivo software package. App engagement was captured quantitatively using the volume of messages sent, through the app, by participants to their weight management advisor.
Results: Inductive thematic analysis was conducted. Initial interviews produced primary themes with several sub themes: 1) Reason for using the app and 2) Expectations of the app and of themselves. At follow-up further themes were identified: 3) Experience of using the app and its individual features, 4) behaviour change and 5) future expectations. Impact of Covid-19 was a further theme that emerged during interviews. The study found participants can engage with a weight management app when in-person services are unavailable. Participants valued tracking dietary intake, remote coaching and receiving weight management information via a smartphone. Covid-19 impacted participants significantly and presented further health and wellbeing challenges. The use of a weight management app was broadly positive in supporting participants to meet these challenges.
Conclusions: The ‘Fresh Start’ weight management app provided valued weight management support to participants whilst no in-person weight management services were operational. Dietary tracking, coaching and information content were important to participants, many of whom had only used in-person services previously. The study suggests service providers should look to support existing services with remote options, ensuring continuity of service and support during adverse events such as a pandemic.
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