What Role Can eHealth Play in Preventing Childhood Obesity?

Researchers at the Health-e Technologies Initiative at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston sought to determine what role electronic technologies can play in preventing and reducing childhood obesity, especially in low-income and culturally diverse communities. Project staff defined "eHealth" as the use in health care of emerging interactive technologies, including the Internet, interactive TV, personal digital technology, kiosks, Internet-enabled cell phones, and CD-ROMs and DVDs.

From 2005 to 2007, project staff reviewed published research and commentary about technology and childhood obesity, convened an interdisciplinary panel of experts to explore perspectives and issued a report, Childhood Obesity Prevention and Reduction: Role of eHealth.

Key Findings

  • "Screen time" is often identified as a primary cause of childhood obesity. However, some uses of technology are more passive than others so the relationship needs to be more clearly delineated.
  • The ubiquity of technology in the lives of today's youth means interventions to prevent and treat childhood obesity need to be adapted to their unique learning and information-seeking styles.
  • Partnerships between the entertainment industry and software developers could play a key role in the battle against childhood obesity.
  • More qualitative and quantitative research is necessary to better understand the use of eHealth applications to address childhood obesity.