Glob Health Promot 2020 03 29;27(1):33-40. Epub 2018 May 29.
Washington University in St Louis, St Louis, MO, USA.
Background: Childhood obesity continues to be a global epidemic and many child-based settings (e.g. school, afterschool programs) have great potential to make a positive impact on children's health behaviors. Innovative and time-sensitive methods of gathering health behavior information for the purpose of evaluation and strategically deploying support are needed in these settings.
Purpose: The aim is to (1) demonstrate the feasibility of mobile health (mHealth) for monitoring implementation of healthy eating and physical activity (HEPA) standards and, (2) illustrate the utility of mHealth for identifying areas where support is needed, within the afterschool setting.
Methods: Site leaders ( = 175) of afterschool programs (ASPs) were invited to complete an online observation checklist via a mobile web app (Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Mobile, HEPA) once per week during ASP operating hours. Auto-generated weekly text reminders were sent to site leaders' mobile devices during spring and fall 2015 and 2016 and spring 2017 school semesters. Data from HEPA was separated into HEPA variables, and expressed as a percent of checklists where an item was present. A higher percentage for a given item would indicate an afterschool has higher compliance with current HEPA standards.
Results: A total of 141 site leaders of ASPs completed 13,960 HEPA checklists. The average number of checklists completed per ASP was 43 (range 1-220) for healthy eating and 50 (range 1-230) for physical activity. For healthy eating, the most common challenge for ASPs was 'Staff educating children about healthy eating', and for physical activity checklists, 'Girls only physical activity is provided at ASP'.
Conclusion: HEPA was widely used and provided valuable information that can be used to strategically deploy HEPA support to ASPs. This study gives confidence to the adoption of mHealth strategies as a means for public health practitioners to monitor compliance of an initiative or intervention.