A mobile app that shows a child’s weight development in real time for obese children enables greater weight loss compared to conventional care. The fact that families and healthcare professionals can track the same data facilitates additional one-on-one support when needed. This is shown by a study by the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden published in the International Journal of Obesity.
The care of obese children and adolescents must be improved. International studies show that frequent follow-up visits, every two weeks, are the most effective in maintaining behavioral changes.
“But it’s not feasible, neither for families nor for the healthcare system. So we have to find new ways to provide more support,” says Emilia Hagman, a researcher in the Department of Clinical, Intervention and technology that in a study evaluated a new digital tool, a mobile application from the company Evira.
The study is a so-called pragmatic study, which means that the participants were not randomized, but rather the treatments were evaluated in a real clinical setting.
100% improved results
100 children who attended the Martina Children’s Hospital (Martina Centrum för Vikthälsa) in Stockholm were able to try out the digi-physical treatment concept over a period of one year. The app is connected to a scale that has no numbers on it, which the child would stand on every day. In the app, the family sees their child’s weight development as a curve that should be within a green goal weight development curve. The target curve was determined individually and updated during physical visits every three months.
Health professionals had access to the same data. Via a chat function, healthcare staff could offer additional support, or parents could request additional support if needed.
To ensure efficacy, these children were compared with 300 children from Sweden’s childhood obesity treatment registry, BORIS, who were receiving usual care at other clinics in the country during the same period and who were selected randomly but which were matched in terms of age and sex. .
Families who used the app had twice the good results compared to the control group, i.e. greater weight loss.
Worked well for teenagers
“This is the first app through which healthcare professionals and family can monitor the progress of a child’s weight in real time,” says the study’s final author, Pernilla Danielsson Liljeqvist, researcher at the Department of Clinical Sciences, Intervention and Technology of Karolinska Institutet. “It was especially gratifying that it worked so well for teenagers, who we otherwise couldn’t have reached with behavior change therapy. The app provides more support through continuous feedback, which clarifies the We could not note any side effects associated with the treatment, for example in the form of eating disorders.”
A limitation of the study is that it was performed in a single clinic. There is also a lack of data on the number of physical visits made by people in the control group.
“We know that the treatment of pediatric obesity in Sweden is focused on behavior change and the control group results are consistent with the BORIS annual report and major international reviews,” says Pernilla Danielsson Liljeqvist. “A calculation of the cost of the treatment has also not been included. First you have to know that it works.”
To be tested in more clinics
Evira’s mobile app is included in Vårdvalet (reimbursed treatment) in the Stockholm region of Sweden from June 1, 2022, so it will be used in more clinics. The researchers are also planning an international study with several European countries.
The study was carried out in collaboration with Martina Children’s Hospital. It was funded by the Stockholm Region, Vinnova, Swelife and Medtech4Health, the Swedish Order of Freemasons Children’s Foundation in Stockholm and Evira AB. Co-author Claude Kollin is the CEO of Martina Children’s Hospital. Co-authors Erik Marcus, Andreas Drangel, and Love Marcus are employees and co-owners of Evira, and Claude Marcus is co-owner of Evira. Neither Erik Marcus, Andreas Drangel, Love Marcus nor Claude Marcus influenced the evaluation of the results.