The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity five days a week or vigorous physical activity for 20 minutes three days a week. Unfortunately, many Americans aren’t in the habit of getting any physical activity at all. The Project HealthDesign RTI International team, working with The Cooper Institute, hopes to change that. They are developing a personal health record (PHR) application to help sedentary adults with or without chronic diseases to become more physically active. Through a Web portal, individuals can input personalized information on their activity level and lifestyle and then receive a customized plan of activities designed to increase their activity level within the context of their daily routines. Advice tailored to their life style and habits may include, for example, taking the stairs rather than the elevator or parking a bit further from the office. The emphasis is on personalized, small changes to people’s daily lives that can realistically be achieved, augmented and sustained.
To shape a consumer-driven vision of this PHR application, approximately 30 middle-aged adult "end-users" in the general population and a small group of health care providers—including physicians, nurses, physical therapists and personal trainers—participated in three design sessions. Input from these sessions fed directly in to the team’s design of an online template that employs a proven behavior change strategy to help sedentary adults incorporate activity in to their daily routines. All aspects of the system, including the look and feel, technology specifications, and scenarios of typical interaction will be tested with likely users, and the system will be modified based on input from their evaluations. In the next stage of the project, the RTI team will add additional components to the PHR application, including a calendar function, customizable fields for users to report their physical activity levels, and a report generator to notify family and friends of an individual’s progress. Since the tool encourages involvement by the individual’s social network, keeping family and friends informed can be an important factor in keeping users of the tool motivated and sustaining healthy changes. Enhancements to the messaging component of the system will allow for reminders, updates to forms and ongoing assessment.
Barbara Massoudi, M.P.H., Ph.D.
Senior Research Health Scientist
2951 Flowers Rd., Suite 119
Atlanta, GA 30341